Making change a strategic advantage

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Wow, it’s hard to believe, but we’re almost in February!

Typically, January in Australia is a quiet month. As the summer reaches its zenith the focus is holidays and enjoying the weather.

Not so for Change Optimised (although we have enjoyed the beach!) Not only have we developed another offering – Keep Your Resolve – we’ve had many conversations. We’ve noticed a recurring theme. And the focus has changed since 2016.

How do I add value?

The conversation has moved from staying relevant to one of value. This is great news because in making that subtle shift of language you’ve moved the needle.

Not only does this mean a more customer focused perspective, it helps reset the conversation to one of strategist versus tactician. And as we know, that moves what you do up the value chain.

No tactical interventions can fix a flawed strategy and that most of what is written about change is tactical

Paul Gibbons, The Science of Successful Change

And as a bonus, thinking ‘value-add’ naturally puts you in a confident mindset because it puts the focus on your clients and customers not on you. Plus, you’re automatically biased towards solution not problem.

3 things you can do to add value

1. The first is experimentation and a bias for action

The phrase, ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’ is why the emphasis in Lean Change is on planning, not The Plan. Charlie Gilkey, the author of The Small Business Lifecycle, expresses this as

‘planning as an awareness generation exercise’.

Adopting this approach towards making progress means you naturally create a bias for action.

The awareness comes from reviewing what you’re doing and adjusting your plans accordingly. We often forget that in planning we make assumptions. So how does this relate to value add?

In a conversation last year, I posed the simple question ‘what assumptions might you be making?’ Having explored this, the follow-on question – ‘how might these assumptions be showing up in your work?’ – led to an Aha! moment.

For me, these were basic questions. But for the other person these questions gave them insights about the system they were working in. So, something that was simple and easy for me, was value-add for them.

Getting into the mindset of enabling others to think is at the heart of coaching. And the value it brings for the client can be transformational.

If I’d gone into the conversation with a plan of which questions I would ask, these emergent questions. naturally flowing from the conversation, would have been missing. And that brings us to the next value-add – habits.

2. Using Lean Change Cycle to break the paralysis by analysis cycle

Acting is the key to creating a habit – and that’s the same for organisations.

Many people mistake habits as motivation to act. Once we get into motivation we’re talking willpower – and that takes way too much energy to sustain over the long-term.

Motivation is what gets you started – it’s the reason why you’re doing something. So, having a vision and strategy for why you want the change you seek is how we start the habit creation process.

Sustaining it is where we use the science of how habits form and consolidate. Triggers and consistency create real change. So, the value add you offer your organisation is helping to understand the habits that they’re seeking to change.

And then helping them change, step by step, experiment by experiment.

Triggers create an unconscious routine that helps the organisation first become aware and then internalise.

A simple way of expressing this is “When… then …”

This is how you can add value by helping teams spot habits that are hindering the change and then creating new habits that solidify the new behaviours. Et voila! You have created an experiment.

Consistency – this is where bias to action comes in. It’s the 10-minute rule! How can you break down the new habit so that you’re taking action consistently? For example, instead of saying ‘we’re going Agile’, define one habit you’re going to take consistently that will move you towards your goal. A simple example of something that’s easy to introduce could be at the end of every meeting there will a 10-minute retrospective.

Your value-add is helping the organisation understand what could hinder progress and some simple light-weight experiments they can commit to do for the shortest possible duration that will create momentum towards their goal. And then build on it!

Action, not thought, creates habits!

Mindset is important but only at the beginning of the process because that’s about the ‘why’.

3. Compare and despair vortex

Adding value presupposes one thing – that you value what you add!

One thing we’ve spotted is some change folk second guess themselves and compare themselves with others – either favourably or unfavourably.

What happens is your inner dialogues dictates how you ‘show up’. Either you are unwilling to take chances, or you’re driven by ‘being perfect’ so you get in your own way.

Comparison means you discount what you’ve done already and how you add value. This hampers your willingness to ask questions and coach versus tell or, even worse, sell change.

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer

And Chris Gilkey offers some great advice when he says,

‘Compare your game against your previous game’,

so that you learn how far you’ve come and where you can go next. The only benchmark is you! Don’t try to be someone else – recognise what you offer that is different from anyone else.

Moving towards value-add as a change strategist isn’t about gaining more tools, it’s about letting go of the tactical and embracing the role of facilitating leaders to lead change.

It’s simple but not necessarily easy because first you must decide leadership over change practitioner.

Perspective and truth

These are three things from one perspective. As we know, there is no one truth – but different perspectives. Let us know your perspective and how you add value.

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