Driving Change

Someone asked me a question yesterday at what point we need to involve more people, such as experts, in large transformation changes.

This is a very interesting and difficult question to answer, I think it’s a tough balancing act that we have to get right.

If we involve too many people too early, then our goals will be tempered, and if we involve them too late, they will feel excluded and this can then lead to resistance throughout the transformation. As we say no involvement, not commitment, and this is can be a huge source of resistance.

In my opinion, the team defining the objectives and the goals needs to be small, possibly even just one to two people.

The more people you have involved in the goal setting the more reasons why you cannot hit the goals, will be raised and sometime we need to be brave, (for brave read stupid), when setting big ambitious goals.

As an example let me tell you about my running a marathon for charity goal. This was something I was thinking about for a while, then when I decided to do it and I publicly announced it.

As soon as I did that people said to me, are you crazy, why not go for 10k, a 10k run is doable, you’re not a runner, this will be very very tough. Or at least limit it to just a half marathon. The weight of doubt and resistance from others was intense, but I had already announced it and was committed.

If I had extended the group setting the goals then I am sure that we would have compromised on a shorter distance and an easier goal.

This is also the same at work, where i set the goal at 80% on-time delivery compared to our average performance of 35%. Here again, if I had consulted with a larger group I am sure we would have tempered the goal and probably set it at 60%.

So in my opinion, when setting the goals of a change, or defining the What i would keep the team to a minimum.

We then need to be able to define the Why, why this goal is important, what the benefits are, the reasons behind it. We need to be able to define the Why, and the more inspirational it is, the bigger the buy in will be.

Then as soon as soon as the What and the Why has been defined, then I would look to extend the team to a much larger group to determine the How.

It must be stated at this point that the What is not negotiable, the focus for the larger team is now How do to we achieve the bold goals. Not how do we temper it or reset it.

There will always be some resistance but we need to get beyond that now.

Here the questions are not “why shouldn’t we not do this”, but should be “tell me what you need to make this happen.”

If we can get this balance right, then when we involve the larger group, they will not feel excluded, they will feel involved. They will take up the challenge and look to define the solution.

They will own the solution as they were involved defining it in, and with this involvement will come commitment to deliver it.

So when it comes to driving change here are my three key principles

  1. Involve as few people as possible in defining the What
  2. Create an important and inspiring Why, which people can buy into
  3. Involve as many people as possible in defining the How, the solution to the goal

This way we will set bold challenging goals, which will inspire people and we will get the commitment and involvement of the people in delivering it.