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The Layers of the Change Bubble: Part 1

At the end of 20111 I wrote about setting up the change bubble if you are creating change from the middle of your organisation. I also talked with Heather Stagl of Enclaria on her internet radio show (number 38) about the four layers (Permission, Persistence, Resilience, Respect) that you need to build to give your bubble a strong enough skin to resist the various challenges that you will receive. In this blog I continue that topic and expand on the first two layers of the  bubble:

Layer 1 of the Bubble is Permission: You need to have the right to create change if you want it to succeed. If you get part way through and senior people pull the plug on you, then its your reputation that will be tarnished and the change resistance of your people will go up a factor. Before you kick off your change you need to see whether key people are a) prepared to give you the right to play and b) defend you from those who will object to what you are doing. Having a good idea is not enough, you need to think about the sustainability of the change and politics is the first killer of any initiative.  Permission sets up the first skin of the bubble that you want to draw around your change initiative. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your boss ok with your idea and happy to cut you slack?
  • Are they okay that this may create a desire to change elsewhere (you could be a positive virus for change that they would like)
  • How much detail do they need to be happy?
  • What are their boundaries?
  • And do they have the appetite to defend you?

Layer 2 is Persistence. Change is not a short term inititiative. Once you’ve started it off you will need to stick with it. Dropping it at the first issue will make it harder to start another change and will also damage your reputation. That said, total stubborness in the face of a changing reality wont help (its a global recession team, but…..). The persistence  question is really summarised by you looking at you and asking of yourself:

‘Are you prepared to keep going when other topics or issues demand your attention?’

Persistence means preparing for all of the things that tend to happen in your organisation on a regular basis e.g. year end accounts, budget setting, board papers, sales conferences? All these things tend to take out large chunks of a managers diary and I often hear people say ‘dont bother with that month as we will be too busy with..’

The thing about a change initiative is that you cant take a month off. You will spend most of your time convincing people of the change, holding people to account for the change, explaining the change, reminding people the ‘why of the change’ and working through the blockers, issues and the small details that come up with any change. If you take a month out for something else you are sending a signal to your people that the change is not that important. So you need to be persistent enough to juggle more than one ball.

So, ask yourself:

  • What could come up and get in the way of my change focus?
  • What normally happens in your org?
  • What gets in the way of you doing strategic stuff normally (budgets, year end, board papers, client launches) and how will you handle them?
  • How quickly do you get bored? What is your past history like on hanging on till you get a result?
  • Do you tend to a short term focus?

Your ability to keep going will make your change one of the small few that gets a result (a high percentage are just dropped). Your persistance is the second skin of the bubble.

In my next blog I will talk about the third and fourth layers: Resilience and Respect

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