Look Outside When Managing Change Within
Recently we were asked how important we believed it was to have objectivity when managing a transformational change. Our answer? Crucially important!
Let’s define ‘transformational change’. What we’re talking about is change that alters your current operating structure. It impacts processes, people, and often technology. It’s a change that moves you into a new way of doing things.
And although it may seem counterintuitive, when an organization or business is trying to implement any kind of transformational change, it’s critically important to look for ‘outside’ guidance to support the change ‘within’ the organization.
1. No bias or baggage.
A key part of the foundational work of managing change is having accurate assessments about the organization and the stakeholders involved. We need to meet them where they are and have a conversation, asking questions about past events, their perceptions, etc. Coming in from outside will eliminate any perceived bias or political baggage they may be concerned about if it was someone they work with asking these questions.
We’ll get far more open and honest answers and likely end up much closer to the truth, if they know what they say is confidential, and there’s no risk of any kind of ‘work issue’ arising later because of what they said. Working from candid assessments will be more effective than starting from a point that’s coloured by intimidation or workplace politics.
2. Normal may not be correct.
Working from the outside in also allows for a sharper picture of what’s working and what may not be. When we’re embedded in the everyday workings of our company or organization, it’s easy to lose perspective. The longer we experience something, the more normal it becomes. Someone from outside is able to spot issues and question irregularities that could be key to a successful change effort because they haven’t been conditioned to accept ‘that’s just the way things are’.
3. Lessons learned to draw on.
Change management training and theory is one thing, doing it is something else entirely. Experience is gold. Having been party to a multitude of scenarios and issues in different industries, sectors, and environments brings the ability to share relevant examples of what’s worked, what hasn’t, and why. These lessons learned can save time, money, and headaches and be the difference between success and failure.
4. Project discipline to complete.
When we bring in support from outside the organization to help manage change, it will most likely be in a project format, and project-based work has a defined beginning and end. Managing change from within an organization is more challenging simply because of the distraction of all the other ‘things’ going on. It’s easier to let target dates shift and slide. Someone from outside is responsible for maintaining momentum and hitting targets; that’s part of the gig. We’re far less likely to end up with a ‘never-ending project’.
One final thought, change support from outside our organization often has a level of clarity that is sharper than what we see through our office windows because they’re not beginning with assumptions. To do their job they need to build a plan based on facts and to take into account all perspectives. Starting with objectivity, asking questions, listening to the answers, and asking follow-up questions is the key to clarity.
"To see another with clarity and objectivity, one first must master stillness."