The third step in creating sustainable Change is the Preparation phase. This may be the most straight-forward of the phases. As the name suggests, you make whatever adjustments you need to improve your ability to act on change. Specifics include factors already considered in the Contemplation Equation. In a structural sense there are three key areas that need to be checked off to fully prepare for change:
1) Knowledge - What do you know about the change being made? Do you have all the necessary facts? Did you go to the meetings? Are you reading the emails and any other literature provided? Is there a process or a timeline? What is your role? As the leader, did you provide enough information?
It may be tempting to just say “people will know what they need to know, when they need to know it.” However, an understanding of how change fits the larger goals can help people internalize the desire for change. Knowing how the process will impact others can be important for continued productivity during change. For instance, if there is a progressive roll-out, it may help me to know when other departments are going to be at risk for decreased productivity. I can then adjust my work flow to decrease delays on my projects. Speaking of planning...
2) Plan - Different people have different ideas about planning. All I want to suggest in this post is to take some time to think through the change process now that you have the facts. Are there specific targets you have to hit? Is there a certain process that needs to occur? This must include some contingency planning for the most likely challenges.
If you are a leader, create a plan and share it with those involved. Having a sense of the bigger process will help your people find change-relevant solutions to unexpected challenges. Otherwise they will likely fall back on an old stand-by solution that may no longer be relevant and could impede a step further down the line.
3) Resources - Now that you have a solid understanding of the factors and a sense of the change process, put the necessary resources into place. Do you have all the necessary tools? Do you have the necessary time/energy? This includes buffer time to deal with unexpected challenges.
Just as important as tools and time, do you have the necessary Support? Sustainable change is difficult. An individual looking to create change should find one or more positive, change-oriented people to help them. This help includes reminding you of the positive elements of change, bolstering your confidence, and sympathizing when challenges occur. ("Get back in there Tiger! You can do it!") It can also include some creative problem solving in the face of unexpected challenges.
In a team or a workplace, colleagues would ideally provide each other with mutual support. That will not always be the case. For instance, if the change is unfavored by a team, or the team does not have a secure dynamic. In these cases a strong leader and/or external support may be required. External support could be in the form of a Consultant or an Employee Assistance Program.
Preparation is as complicated or simple as the change being made. Either way, it is necessary. Most attempts to change fail due to lack of forethought and preparation. Think about all those New Years Resolutions. Did you do your research? Did you plan for challenges? Did you gather resources and support? Or did you dive right in on January 2nd relying on Willpower, and a pair of blown out running shoes to get you there? If that didn’t work, then relying on Willpower, and a misunderstood piece of software or a new cubicle arrangement won’t work in the workplace either.
...until the battle begins."
Next time: Action