Go Fast to Create Better Organizational Change

Go Fast to Create Better Organizational Change
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The Fable Today
Aesop advocated that the slow and steady tortoise wins the race.  While that may be true in some instances, we believe that Aesop missed something from a change management consulting perspective.  It helps to know how to go fast to create better organizational change.

When you really want to cross the finish line of effective organizational change, pay close attention to the hare’s behavior.  The short and focused sprints of the hare can teach us another lesson on how to accomplish real change in the workplace.

Successful Organizational Change Is Not the Norm
Our clients report that only one third of their organizational change efforts succeed at achieving their stated objectives.  Why do two thirds of change efforts fail?  While many variables come into play, one underappreciated factor is trying to do too much all at once.

A Recent Client Example
One current client started a major change initiative affecting 30% of their overall revenue with a clear mandate to change manufacturers and a key part of the design.  The focus and strategic rationale were clear, and the change was significant.  Unfortunately, all based upon good intentions, the project scope grew to eventually touch every product line, over 50 SKU’s, all packaging, every graphic, and all messaging across their entire portfolio.

Not surprisingly the project was not a success – sales velocity decreased, customer dissatisfaction increased, and employee frustration grew.  In hindsight it was easy for the client to see that the focus, success metrics, and resource allocation became confusing, conflicting, and obfuscated.

How to Go Small and Fast to Create Better Organizational Change

  1. Ruthlessly Simplify and Focus Like the Tortoise
    Before you even begin to implement change, be clear on what you are trying to accomplish in order of priority. Know where you are headed and what success will specifically look and feel like.  This is what the tortoise understood.

    There was no question about where he wanted to go and how he intended to get there.  He knew the goals could be reached only by putting one foot in front of the other.  He kept it simple.

    In the workplace, this attitude relates to your prioritizing the critical few changes that matter most to realize your vision of success.  This is harder than it sounds, but it is critical.  The client mentioned above made so many changes that they were unable to correlate what caused the major drop in sales velocity.

  2. Go for Short Sprints Like the Hare
    Now it’s time to employ the hare’s philosophy. Approach the change in short, iterative bursts in a sequence that makes sense.  Then stop, assess progress, capture lessons learned, and make necessary adjustments.

    The key is to remain flexible and to be open to faster organizational learning, and correcting course without losing the initial simplicity and focus.

  3. Keep Your Eye on the Prize and Be Transparent
    Don’t lose sight of where you want to end up and why the “new way” is critical for your success.  Change at work is hard; people naturally resist change.

    But if you’ve communicated the rationale and vision effectively, actively secured the support of leaders and key stakeholders, made necessary resources available, and have a plan to communicate progress and hold each other accountable – you are ready to launch.

The Bottom Line
Don’t be one of the 7 out of 10 who never make it to the end of the change race.  Combine the steadiness, perseverance and goal orientation of the tortoise with the hare’s dashes as long as they are informed by reflection and adaptation.  If they work in parallel, Aesop may have to change his fable’s ending.

To learn more about how to go fast to create better organizational change, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

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