Industry sectors across Australia had a challenging 2019.

Economics, increased regulatory pressure, climate impact on operations and staff, trade wars, consumer sentiment, and Royal Commissions all had a significant influence. As did balancing the need to keep pace with technological advancements, community expectations, and the changing needs and growing dissatisfaction of customers.

Many sectors find themselves in a tough spot to kick off the new decade – some of their own doing, others not – as they try to decide, do we need to change? If yes, what needs to change? And, how do we manage this and everything else?

A challenging element in the change process is working out where to start, how to achieve the balance between ‘building the plane and flying it’, and how to motivate and commit everyone to the change that is needed – not just today, but tomorrow and the next day.  It becomes about how to prevent the change as either being seen as ‘the new shiny toy’ or an event that is viewed as ‘this too shall pass’.

Balance is an important element in work (and in life). This is especially true when the change that’s required needs to be long-term and sustainable to address the cause of an issue – not a decision made in haste to treat a symptom of poor performance. Serious change requires serious preparation and focussed implementation.

Dissatisfaction is change’s greatest ally

One of the key elements of change is preparation, to ensure that the motivation for change is clearly understood and aligned across those that will need to drive and support the process.

I recently attended a series of sessions on “Building high-performance teams” with Andrew Meikle, who has amassed a wealth of research and knowledge on high performing people and organisations. One of the concepts that resonated with me was the role of personal dissatisfaction in implementing successful change.

My course notes read, “Nothing will change until the current performance reaches a level of personal dissatisfaction.” The same can be said if the performance or outcomes don’t meet a standard. If that standard isn’t meaningful to you, then nothing will change. This was a resonant note as it talks to the importance of creating the mental state of acknowledgment and readiness for change.

The same is true for both personal change and for organisations. The latter can be difficult to define and harder to implement. Consideration should be given to monitoring customers’ dissatisfaction channels – chat lines, phone calls, emails, complaints, defects, returns, etc. And for those organisations working through their Customer Centricity aspirations, measure how much of your project budgets are allocated to initiatives that will address key areas of customer dissatisfaction.

This can be difficult if there is a sequence of customers in a chain, with the end customer unknown or quite distant.  But it does not change each customer’s view of whether they are satisfied. Why not ask your customer if you are meeting their needs and expectations? This simple step can have a massive impact on an understanding of whether a good job is being done or not. 

The ‘why’ is the most important tool you have

If for you, as a leader in your organisation or business, the focus on the customer isn’t where it needs to be, how do you communicate and align this across your team? And how do you ensure that the required standard is meaningful to each person?

An important element of preparing for change is understanding the deeper level motivation for needing to do things differently.

Here’s a quick personal example. I love surfing, but fitness issues mean I risk not being able to surf, possibly forever. This potential reality has led me to a high level of personal dissatisfaction. So why is changing my behaviours and habits important? I start by considering what surfing gives me: enjoyment, relaxation, connection with nature, time with friends.

My physical capability impacts my enjoyment and time in the water and is causing frustration, but not surfing at all would remove a major source of connection from my life. Hence, I am motivated to change and understand why it is necessary, however uncomfortable.

The change process is really hard, especially in diverse and dispersed workplaces. So, there are some key things to consider and remember when it comes to change:

The ADKAR change model deals with change as a process of transition from current to future state at the individual level

  • Change is not an event; it is an ongoing process that needs input or support well past the ‘implementation’ date. It is a mindset, not a task.  
  • The most successful change is one that is a series of small but related shifts that people understand, and at the end of, can’t imagine going back to the old way of doing things.
  • When starting out on change, not only do you need to be clear on your messaging and engagement, but also on what is needed medium and long term to sustain and evolve the change.

But maybe the most important step is taking the time to understand, and clearly and consistently communicate why change is necessary. These are the key elements in the process.

Combined with the concept of dissatisfaction, a clear understanding of the deeper level ‘whys’ provides the resolve and resilience required when the change process gets tough.

That internal conversation is happening across organisations – why are we doing this again? Because the way we were doing things wasn’t good enough and if we don’t change, we will not achieve “X”.

Getting started on the road to change

In my personal journey (because I dislike failure and this is a meaningful change), I’m taking my time with the next step. It would be easy to rush in to a fitness program, a diet, something like the FebFast initiative or running a marathon. But none of those will work for me, and I’m not convinced that they will create the long-term sustainable change that I’m looking for.

My understanding of change management, goal theories, and the way I operate requires that my next steps are to:

  1. Formulate some goals
  2. Engage with those impacted to gain input
  3. Write the goals down and publish them
  4. Communicate these goals to my stakeholders/shareholders that will need to help, support, and discipline me through the process

Of course, for me, publishing my goals means sticking them on the fridge. And my shareholders are my friends and family. But once I’ve done this, I can then get on with the hard part of changing (I can feel the pain of stretching and quad rolling already).

For those industry sectors, organisations, and businesses that had a tough 2019 or are dissatisfied with their current performance and want to achieve the best possible outcomes in 2020 and beyond, I urge you to:

  • Do the preparation work to understand your motivation
  • Find the real why
  • Commit to the change
  • Plan for what is needed in the long term to sustain the change
  • Enlist the help of those that you will need

Now is the time to get started and make a change that sticks. Sometimes though, planning a change is easier than implementing it.

At Coxswain Alliance, we offer a range of services that assist organisations in making sustainable managerial, operational, behavioural and process changes.

If you’d like further advice or assistance in getting your 2020 changes up and running, click here to view our services or here to contact the team.

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