If you are frustrated by an organization resistant to embracing a change you believe is right, consider using the following steps as a road map to seeing your ideas through to reality:
Write-up and share your point of view. While what you have in mind may seem clear to you, it likely is not yet to others. Writing about what you want to happen forces you to work out the logical progression of thought and to fill in the details to tell the story in a way others can understand. Share what you write with others to test for clarity and ask for help to make it clearer.
Focus on value.
Emphasize the business value your change would generate in terms others, especially those in positions of authority, can understand and appreciate.
Set the context for change.
Use the change framework to explain how what you have in mind to change exists today, why it needs to change, how it will be in the future, what must be done to get from here to there, and what will be difficult about effecting the change.
Find (or be) a leader.
Either find and sign-up to follow a strong leader headed in the direction you seek, or step into the lead role yourself and build a coalition of support for the change you have in mind.
Decide what kind of leader to be…
…i.e., be the Sergeant, hero, herder, teacher, hero, icon, etc., and manage yourself accordingly…or decide how to work with the person you have chosen to follow based on the kind of leader that person is.
Find others who have done something similar elsewhere and learn from them what works, what doesn’t, what to watch, and how to make progress.
Decide what to watch.
Research to find benchmarks others have found useful and to know what is possible. Set goals and monitor progress to know when the initiative is progressing reasonably and when it is ultimately successful.
Form a review board.
Convene a forum of people with a stake in what you are doing and meet with them regularly to report on what you said you would do, what you actually did, what happened, what you learned, and what you plan to do next. Encourage them to ask hard questions to push up your thinking and then offer their best advice.
Find others doing something similar elsewhere and convene a form that meets regularly to share and compare what you’ve done, what you’ve learned, what you’ve come up with to increase and accelerate learning and progress.
Seek small wins.
Look for and take advantage of opportunities to take small steps in the right direction. Success comes more easily with many small steps rather than in large leaps. Learn from and consolidate what works and build on that success to do even more.
If your efforts fall flat:
- Maybe what you are saying is not clear.
- Maybe you are not focusing on the value of what you have in mind.
- Maybe others know something you do not know…find out what that is!
- Maybe you know something others don’t…figure out what that is and communicate it.
- Maybe others do not understand why what you have in mind is important, what it means for them that is favorable, and so have yet to internalize and commit to doing what they can do to help make happen what you seek.
- Maybe what you want to accomplish does not cross the threshold of importance relative to all the other things going on in the organization. If so, consider whether now is the time to push for what you have in mind.
Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help you Change the World
Editor’s note: Originally posted on March 13, 2016 – updated August 2020.