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Overcome Inertia in Implementing Change

Aug 17, 2007
The best laid plans of mice and men never seem to get implemented. A vexing question for anyone planning a change is, Will all this planning really make a difference?" Many quality or strategic planning teams find themselves hampered by the suspicion that it's all really an exercise in futility and nothing will ever change.

In fact, experience has frequently shown employees that they can plan, document, and communicate desired changes that may be implemented only briefly, if at all. Often their plans are on the shelf within six months to a year as other, "more pressing concerns," take priority. Change requires hard work, and if no one sees the benefits in terms of those pressing concerns, they're unlikely to put forth the necessary effort. The fact is, no organization can afford to come to a complete halt while it reforms, restructures, or "changes."

Change must occur while the company stays in motion. The company still must make a profit. Customers and the environment will continue to make new and varying demands. To hit a moving target, those desiring the change must move with it.

Implementing a change process by following the business opportunities in an organization can be likened to the process followed by a man who renovated his house without cash. It took him almost two years to complete the work and he did it by bartering his own professional services for the contract work done by several vendors.

The renovation seemed to happen in fits and starts. One month he'd have one-third the brick work done. The next month half the paving would be done. Then he had the alarm system installed, something that might have made more sense to do before the bricks were laid. But that was the way the bartering opportunities occurred. It may not have been the most efficient way to renovate, but it got the job done.

As you seek to change your business, you first need a picture of the completed change and a rough plan for putting the pieces of the change together. The current pressing needs of your business can then help you determine which pieces of your plan to accomplish immediately or how to modify your plan.

For instance, your final plans may include development of a new product line, but you may not make that the top priority until you have a customer with an interest in it. At that point, the existence of the possible order will ensure the necessary steps for change are taken.

The four elements required in impleŽmenting change are:

*A vision of the end (the "completed change")

*A plan for how to get to that end

*A clear sense of current business "drivers" (opportunities or problems)

*A flexible planning process that will allow you to tailor your plans around the current business drivers.

The last two elements are critical but frequently ignored. Unfortunately, if change implementation efforts neglect these and do not help management with their pressing concerns, failure is almost inevitable.

Martial arts practitioners have long known how to turn an opponent's energy to their own advantage. Those who seek to effect change can learn from them. If your change implementation effort is stalled, you must find the energy!

Organizations always have energy directed somewhere towards issues, concerns, problems, or opportunities. Use the proposed change to support the organization's "high energy" issues. If the change being offered cannot be used to help matters of immediate concern, then maybe the proposed change isn't what the organization needs after all.
About the Author
Get a free copy of the 250-page change manifesto Change is the Rule: Free Change Management Book

Dutch Holland is principal and founder of Holland & Davis, specializing in helping clients implement change.
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