This has been a year full of life milestones and change for me and for my family. The latest milestone is the wedding of my eldest daughter. Said daughter is one of that generation of professional, young people forced by the high cost of housing in the UK to live with parents. Her fiancé and she decided not to live together before marriage. So her happy event was also a trigger for some quiet pondering on the part of her parents. How would we fill the gap left by her? At one level, there will be fewer lemon drizzle cakes and the discipline required to get to the gym each morning will increase without the help of a station drop off. On another level, more pressure on me to remain talkative into the evening when I have often had the luxury of slipping into the background while the women in my life discuss the day or the wedding plan.
It seems reasonable that we should treat personal change with at least as much care and thought as we might apply to professional situations but how many of us develop a Change Plan for such situations? More likely we make it up on the run or give it little thought until we hit challenges. Perhaps this is a good discussion to have with my wife on an evening soon when I might otherwise be tempted to go into standby mode.
I have learnt (again) that a spreadsheet approach to planning, in this case, a wedding is not welcome and that a family does not respond well to a too obviously structured approach to Project and Change Management. In the absence of such an approach it seems that my family falls back on intense communication and consultation followed by periods of frantic action. Roles are assigned without discussion based perhaps on previous experience of what works and what does not. My wife is the planner and has a complete grasp of the detail. On a practical level, my role is to manage logistics. At other times, I am the one that is expected to stay calm and see the way through a difficult phase in the preparations. My family has come to expect that I will often be grumpy but nearly always support our team effort.
I am not sure I would recommend the Lewis family approach to Project and Change Management but it demonstrates that there is more than one way to achieve success.
The Dog Days of summer are with us. Near silence has replaced the sound of nearby playground schoolchildren that normally drifts through my office window. The gym is populated only by empty nesters deferring their vacations until September. The weather is typical of English summers; mostly cloudy, breezy and intermittently wet. England are taking on Pakistan in the 3rd five day test match of the cricket season.
Dog Days are good for Change Managers. Time to consider what communication and leadership opportunities should be taken when a rejuvenated workforce returns, disruptive upcoming change temporarily put to back of mind. Time to reinforce the case for change and paint a positive picture of the future. The back to work messages are extra powerful when delivered before the fog of “too much to do” descends.
For the same reasons, September in the Northern Hemisphere is a good month for beginnings; be it mobilising a project team, implementing a critical component of a change programme or introducing a new organisation structure.
So time to put the final touches to the Back to Work Plan.
Change is good.
It has been 3 months since I left the corporate world and started my consultancy business. I was lucky to have a quick win in the form of some work for my former employer which is now coming to a successful end. Time then to take stock, revisit the start up plan and consider next steps.
Contacts I made in the early weeks have gone cold and may need to be reminded that I am hunting opportunities. Updating my communication plan and developing a new set of key messages is a priority; I am in business, I have successfully completed work as an independent consultant, I am easy to do business with, I can work confidently anywhere in the world.
Do I need to make some course corrections? The Plan, Action, Review cycle is most effective when the review process captures lessons learned and identifies meaningful changes for the next cycle. Such corrections require an open mind especially when they represent a big shift in thinking. They may also be the source of inspiration and energy; critical in maintaining momentum out of the trough of the change curve.
An injection of new thinking and increased effort in planning for the next phase of my start up is called for. The potentially quiet period between assignments should not be an excuse to take a holiday; though I might do that too!
Change is good. Driving change is better.
Strategy Planners often look for low hanging fruit and quick wins to inject credibility and momentum to their Change Management efforts. My business start up has benefited from a quick win; some consulting work for my former employer that required little of the hard sell that other potential opportunites will demand. This early success brings some risks; the temptation is to assume that the early momentum will translate into sustainable change. The Change Manager has to focus on the long haul and ensure his/her plans include energetic action to reinforce and cement early progress. Communication must use multiple channels and key messages be repeated often to reach the target audiences.
Surely the defining quality of the successful Change Manager is the determination to tackle the long haul. Early in a project, the need for structured change management focused on people and processes is often discounted in the pursuit of an IT solution or a reconfiguration of the boxes on an organisation chart. The Change Manager may have to take a back seat; quietly executing communication plans and developing training while the, apparently sexier, implementation progresses.
So enjoy the quick wins and focus on the long haul.
Change is Good.
An important element of any Change Management plan is the consideration of what stays the same. Teams confronting the challenge of a significant organisation change or new technology introduction, can be reassured to discover that actually much of what they have become familiar with is not going to change after all.
It is the same for me as I carve out a new professional life for myself. I find that the familiar morning routines are unchanged; I drop my daughter at the station, go to the gym, breakfast in a, perhaps, slightly more leisurely fashion before settling into the same home office around 0930. Sorry if that sounds indolent but I am the boss.
All this makes the changes I am facing seem less profound and provides a framework for taking my productivity back to and beyond normal levels. The secure backdrop provides the platform for a motivation boost and ensures that the exciting opportunities presenting themselves are not clouded by unnecessary worry.
Critical to successful Change Communication is articulating what stays the same.
Change is good.