Nine Extremely Important Steps For Creating Breakthrough Change In Your Organization
Breakthrough change refers to those disruptive initiatives that dramatically, profoundly affect the organization and the people in it. It redefines the prospects for the future and interrupts the organization’s cautious momentum plan with incremental improvement. One reality of business that seasoned executives know well — often by learning it the hard way — is that introducing and implementing breakthrough change is an uphill battle.
Most organizations’ processes and culture are structured for predictability, reliability, control and risk minimization. Breakthrough change is the polar opposite. It is unpredictable and favors responsiveness to new realities over control and staying the course. Breakthrough change is inherently risky and goes against every instinct the leaders of the company have developed over the course of their careers. Is it any wonder, then, that employees often resist breakthrough change — even in companies whose leaders say it’s exactly what they need?
Leaders must find ways to help people see the need for change and then inspire them to move toward it with confidence and urgency. This nine-step process is designed to mitigate the risks that come with change by having you take concrete steps to increase your chances of success. This preparation does not make the change less bold — and it doesn’t guarantee success. What it does do is create an advantage (or more accurately, a series of advantages).
Together, these nine steps represent a plan of action that will take you from the first realization that a change needs to be made through a complete shift in the way you implement this change.
Breakthrough change never, ever stops while the world progresses. Competition, the marketplace and technological advances make it necessary to keep growing and changing. Each of the nine steps will guide you along the way to breakthrough change
1. Why is the change needed?
No matter how well leaders understand the need for change, the challenges they must face in leading breakthrough change will be enormous. We can’t deny that change is part of life. Yet in life and in business, some people embrace change and others actively avoid it.
You will be most successful when you tie the change to the company’s mission and show how the change will help achieve it. When employees believe in a mission, they get excited and passionate about contributing to the company’s goals. Thus, connecting a breakthrough change to the company mission and explaining how it contributes to the mission can help employees see and appreciate why a change may be necessary — even critical — to the company’s future success.
Whatever the purpose of the change you are proposing, convincing others of its need requires effort; and it’s almost always much more effort than you expect. Even if the need seems logical and inescapable to you, others won’t necessarily recognize that at first. People who are afraid do not behave logically, and they don’t respond to logical appeals. How can we smooth the way?
First of all, repetition is important. It’s not enough just to announce a change and call it a day. You must give your employees the information again and again and use a variety of methods. Tell them in person, tell them in writing, and tell them via e-mail. Tell them one-on-one and tell them in big groups. It’s very likely that not everyone will have heard you correct
2. Assemble Change Agents
No matter how compelling the need and how strong your passion for making the change, achieving and sustaining breakthrough change will require much more than just your passion. Leaders must depend on on a well-balanced leadership team. It’s your job to actively develop and bring together a group that will guide the organization in making your change a reality. You are looking for change agents, for people who are comfortable with a greater degree of risk than the average person.
When you are creating your leadership team and looking for people to help you make this change happen, consider four key elements: skill, experience, enthusiasm and team fit. The surprising truth is that enthusiasm and team fit may be the most challenging elements to locate. You need people who are willing to enter unmapped terrain. These pioneers will guide your larger team, usher your change into reality and serve as ambassadors to the rest of the organization.
Attitude is critical, but it’s not sufficient. Leaders must find people with the relevant experience, and very often— particularly with breakthrough change — that means going outside to recruit the key talent that’s needed.
3. Provide Clear Vision of the Future
In the earlier step, we were simply attempting to convince others that the status quo is unacceptable and the way we are doing things today no longer works; we need to do something different as we move into the future. In this step, we develop and present a very specific idea of what that “something different” is. In most cases, this means comparing the present to a future that is very different. Whether you are starting anew or bringing change to an existing organization, you must give people a clear —and strongly compelling — vision of the future: where the organization is going and their role in the new future. Momentum is critical in the early steps of breakthrough change.
Leaders need to spread the message to different groups and at multiple times to the same group, in different ways and in various situations. The ability to lead change rests on the leader’s character and skills as a communicator. In a sense, communicating the vision behind the breakthrough change effort is never over; it’s something you must repeat and constantly reinforce. To do this well requires passion, patience and understanding.
4. Plan for uncertainties
This step is all about anticipating problems as you are planning, and confronting these problems before they derail your efforts. Unfortunately, you cannot anticipate all problems. The way to prepare for the unexpected is to explicitly talk it out, and not just inside your head. Gather executives, responsible business partners and any other people whose involvement is critical to the change you propose, and ask them all to think seriously about how the change might be received within the organization, outside of the organization and what could go wrong.
5.Create an Actionable Plan
This involves assessing where we are, where we want to be and how do we get there.It also involves planning. The plan for a breakthrough change should have the following key components: goals and deliverables, tasks, deadlines, capital and other resources, people
6. Divide Change Initiative Into Small Phases
One of the best ways to preserve the enthusiasm that you have generated early on is to divide a major breakthrough change initiative into smaller phases, having shorter and intermediate-term goals with specific, clearly defined benefits. Ideally, each of these smaller goals will take less than twelve months, preferably six months or less. They provide a series of checkpoints where you can celebrate interim successes on the road to a completed change. Planning for interim successes has multiple benefits. By delving into the details of a phased approach, you can uncover issues well before they turn into problems. Breaking a change initiative into a phased approach improves the quality of planning and, in the long term, can also make you a better, more detailed planner. It also enables you to show results and increase support for the initiative.
Breakthrough change is often about a new way of doing business, a new distribution channel, a new product, a new position in the market. As you develop your plan, carefully consider which interim steps you will focus on first. How will you capture what you’ve learned from those steps and celebrate the interim successes? How will you increase and maintain momentum ? How will you fund it all?
7. Find a Way to Measure success
There’s a strong desire in business to measure everything with one simple question: how much money are we making right now? But when we are making a breakthrough change, the end goal of enhanced profitability could be a long time in coming. There are always other more immediate factors we can track that will lead to profit improvement down the road. And when that road is long and uncharted, as it often is with breakthrough change, it’s particularly important to measure the interim steps and goals along the way.
8. Strengthen and Empower the Team
First, it may be time to further strengthen the leadership team for the long haul. And second, as the focus shifts to bringing together the entire team, you need to attend to the broader team that will ultimately do all the heavy lifting to bring the change initiative to fruition. This means assessing skills, namely, skills that already exist within the organization, additional skills you will need to develop and skills you will need to bring in. It also means recruiting for talent, fit and balance and empowering the larger team to succeed.
9. Use Pilots to Increase Success
Appropriate and careful use of pilot projects is a consistent thread in successful rollouts; pilots can dramatically enhance your prospects for success. Traditional proof of concept pilots rest on a belief that it makes the most sense to test a new idea on a representative sample of your customers and your employees. The goal here is to create a slice of life and then see how your idea performs in this micro but representative version of the real world.
In the right hands, and with the right mind-set, these steps can create a more productive and more readily navigated path to breakthrough change. The process itself is less about what to think than about how to think. It’s about learning to anticipate and to analyze logically and carefully; thinking creatively and embracing possibilities; learning what to prioritize, where to concentrate energy, and how to move forward while bringing others along with you.
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