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Change, Part 2 - Dealing with complexity

Updated: May 19, 2021

Change is a process, not an event.

More than that, it’s a complex, difficult process.

Firstly, change is messy. Organisational change is particularly challenging, with so many individuals and moving parts to consider. There are many factors that need to be in place for a change programme to succeed (strategy, skills, people, processes, communication), which is a lot of plates for leaders to spin. What are the chances they’ll all spin, at the right speed, continuously?

Secondly, change is not linear. It’s never a smooth transition from point A to point B. Two steps forward are often followed by one step back. It takes a great deal of intrinsic motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and success may well depend on factors we don’t control.

Thirdly, we are all complex individuals, and we bring our whole selves to any change situation. Our response to change will reflect our values, our beliefs, our previous experience and our fears. Leaders will need to manage not just their own response, but those of their teams, too.

So, what can we do to make change easier? There are endless courses, books and thought-pieces on this topic, but for me the most important things to remember are:

Have a clear picture of where you’re going, and why

This sounds obvious, but it can be easy to forget. Can you explain the change you want to make in a short paragraph? What about the reasons why? Keep this in view, to remind yourself of what’s at the heart of the change when you are being bombarded with day to day pressures.

Identify potential pitfalls and setbacks

What are the things that could stop you getting to where you want to go? Don’t just think about the external factors, think about the internal ones, too. Where and why might your motivation falter? When you recognise this it will be easier to consider tactics to tackle it.

Set milestones along the way

Make sure you are able to see that you are making progress, and reward yourself when you do.

Have a support network

It’s always easier when you have support. This might be your change project team, or an external peer who’s able to provide some much-needed perspective. You might find it useful to work with a coach to give you a protected space to explore the impact of the change.

Go easy on yourself

This stuff is hard, and it’s not going to get any easier if you’re burnt out. Make sure you take time out to step away, relax and recharge your batteries.

If you’re making the change for the right reasons, it will be worth it.

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