Why is change so hard?
Why do so many once-great organizations fail to make the seemingly obvious changes in front of them?
The previous two articles talked about how our limbic brain works hard to keep us (and our organizations) alive by subconsciously driving us to do what we know how to do.
We then looked at identifying and eliminating limbic strategy and identifying the Key Transitions necessary to achieve our strategic objectives.
But, it’s not enough solely to identify a Key Transition.
In and of itself, a Key Transition is ‘merely’ a statement of intent. However, the real benefit comes from identifying the actual changes in our management and employees needed to achieve that Key Transition.
The primary changes are typically needed in:
- Attitudes: the mental state we are in at work which is both derived from and drives our perceptions and presumptions.
- Behaviors: the way we act, particularly as it relates to how with function within a team environment.
- Cultural norms: how the values and inertia both from inside the organization and its external environment impact expectations.
- Skills: the hard skills and knowledge needed to fully execute the strategy.
We call these the ABC-S of Key Transitions.
It is important to note that we are not merely documenting our current ABC-S. Nor are we simply assessing what they need to be. Instead, we take an inventory of what is, take an honest look at what will need to change, and then highlight the gaps and misalignment between the two.
If we continue with our Kodak example, here are the example attitudes, behaviors, cultural normals, and skills that would be necessary to complete their Key Transition.
- Attitudes: We sell experiences, not a product. And, there are close to zero barriers to entry for future competitors, so we must be good at everything we do.
- Behaviors: Relentless focus on ease of use. Get close enough to the customer that we can see our offering through their eyes.
- Cultural norms: Direct consumer focus, not retailer focus. And service-not manufacturing-based.
- Skills: All things web-based: Design, coding, UI, eCommerce. Service marketing skills.
Clearly, these ABC-S would have deviated significantly from their status quo. When that is the case, it is even harder to make the shift, which makes getting out ahead of these implications ahead of time all the more important.
This is an important point because when planning your strategy, the incremental changes don’t seem to justify this step. While that is true, there are other factors to consider.
- An over-reliance on incremental change is likely part of the problem.
- Drift is very real, and you can catch it more regularly if you assess your ABC-S each time.
- You’re building muscle for when you need it. Much of your work as a leader is doing for the present and developing for the future.
Another unenviable but inevitable aspect of necessary changes to your ABC-S is that significant changes are often accompanied by personnel changes. And when that happens, you need to keep a very close eye on the VOPS impact.
Establish the VOPS Impact
VOPS (Visionary, Operator, Processor, and Synergist) is the most important tool for attaining, sustaining, or even regaining Predictable Success for your organization. Yet it is almost virtually unheard of.
There are books written about the strategies, tactics, and technologies you need to achieve success, but they all fail to recognize the root causes and merely address the symptoms.
The root cause of the challenge you face in every stage, especially Predictable Success, is almost always a mismatch between the leadership style balance you need and the leadership style balance you have.
Step two is establishing the impact that your strategies, Key Transitions, and ABC-S will have on each of the styles present in your team. This will help you understand and address the natural resistance and identify those whose strengths lend themselves to making, aiding, and even enhancing the necessary changes.
To continue our Kodak example:
- Visionaries: Green – Visionaries thrive on new opportunities and change. We need to lean into their strengths to make the needed transition.
- Operators: Red – The “best,” “most entrenched” Operators from the ‘old’ organization are unlikely to make the leap to excel in the ‘new’ organization, leading to high turnover.
- Processors: Red – The “best,” “most efficient” Processors from the ‘old’ organization is unlikely to make the leap to adapt to the dramatic changes in the ‘new’ organization, leading to high turnover.
- Synergists: Yellow – These people-oriented Synergists will likely be shaken by the widespread personnel changes throughout the organization. But they are also skilled at understanding and communicating with consumers placing them in high demand for this transition to take root.
Build your Key Transition Plan
We’ve covered a lot so far. And there is one final step necessary to pull it all together: building your Key Transition Plan.
This plan is likely going to look different than you think. We have found doing this for the last 30+ years that an actionable Key Transition Plan typically addresses implications in five areas.
- Hiring: Who will you need to hire to bring in the necessary attitudes, behaviors, cultural norms, and skills and bring the VOPS balance you need for the ABC-S to take root.
- Performance Assessment: How will your operating metrics change? What developmental steps need to be taken for those in the ‘old’ organization to succeed in the ‘new’ organization?
- Deployment: How can you move employees within the organization on a short-term basis (from minutes to months) to help prepare them for the transition? How can you move your key players as quickly as possible to begin making progress and earning some early wins?
- Mentoring & Coaching: Who are those employees who are most likely to embrace the change and thrive in the ‘new’ organization? How can we pair them up to mentor and coach those capable of the change but likely to find it more difficult?
- Training: What new teachable skills will be needed? What current skills can we leverage to make the transition as seamless as possible?
Let’s round out our Kodak example with a strategic plan for these five areas.
- Hiring: Innovative web developers (leveraging P & V styles), B2C marketers (leveraging S & V styles), and customer service agents (leveraging S & O styles).
- Performance Assessment: Focus on developing capacity for flexibility, openness, and change.
- Deployment: Create opportunities for all employees to meet customers face-to-face. Include the development team in the tech support workflow.
- Mentoring & Coaching: Implement reverse mentoring to allow younger, more tech-savvy employees to help older, more experienced employees embrace the needed technological changes
- Training: Train willing sales staff to sell B2C. Train willing manufacturing employees to work in customer service.
While we’ve covered quite a lot of detail, it’s important to note that the output of this process and the plan itself need not be overly detailed—quite the contrary. We’ve found the level of detail in a plan is inversely proportionate to the team’s ability to execute the plan.
If you’d like help identifying and executing your Key Transitions, I’d encourage you to find a Scale Architect near you using our Directory at scalearchitects.com/directory. These individuals specialize in helping organizations attain, sustain, and regain Predictable Success and are ready to help you do just that!
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