Futuristic thinking and the importance of building a habit of small and incremental improvement.

 

Change Management is nothing new on the horizon. Almost every single day I encounter a situation, meeting, sales pitch or indeed LinkedIn article on the topic of Change Management. From all these encounters I always question one thing – do we actually need to change?

Maybe that was a bit confrontative.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning the need for change itself. I do however believe that the name “Change Management” itself entails that there is something inherently wrong with sometimes remaining still. Change for the purpose of change itself is not always the sound way forward and I believe most of you will agree that it is not simply change that we are looking for, but rather improvement. For me, the most important thing to improve is to continuously evaluate your position and the options of action that you possess in that given moment.

As my “bestest” colleague Marcus Ohlin (his words) wrote in an article a couple of months ago, there is a bubbling idea about applying different modes when introducing new ways of working in an organization, or a group of people if you will. One mode focuses on increasing operational efficiency of existing way of working and the other mode is focused on active exploration of possibilities to reach the “greener grass”.

The latter mode is where many initiatives tend to go wrong. I will outline my thoughts below on three guiding principles to enable success in your initiatives:

Keep it small – Keep the number of cooks and hands in your cookie jar to a minimum

Historically, these expeditions into the unknown seem to often be scoped very large which increases the risk of ending up in a sunk cost fallacy scenario, arguing “we have invested too much to stop”. Avoid this by keeping explorative initiatives small and nimble, with clear objectives. Also, and maybe the most important part, guard the scope of these initiatives. I’m serious, scope creep will successfully kill your chance for success 100 % of the time.

Do it often – Build a culture and habit of improvement much like the Kaizen philosophy originated in Toyota’s manufacturing

Another tendency I see is that we attempt these explorations too seldom. Practice makes perfect, which points to the exact opposite of only embarking on these epic change journeys every 10-15 years where everything is expected to change at once. “Big Bang” change implementation rarely or never did work. Not for the lack of trying though since it is still the weapon of choice for many organizations, most likely because the improvement is stalled until you find yourself in a business-critical situation. From my experience this is often a problem with IT tool replacements, where a change is not initiated until infrastructure is dated or actually breaking down.

Solve the future, not the present

Keep a forward leaning stance in these exploratory initiatives and don’t get lost in the firefighting in your day to day operations. This does not mean that the challenge you try to solve is not based on your current issues, but rather that you must allow part of your attention to be focused on the horizon instead of looking at your feet. One way to enable this behavior is to ensure that the main people involved can focus full time on the task at hand.

Too Long, Didn’t Read:

  • It is not the large “once every 10-15 years” initiative that changes your business. It is the habit and culture to evaluate the position you are situated in, and make a conscious decision whether to move, and in what direction.
  • Make the move small enough to not be a life or death, risk everything scenario, but still large enough to prove whether the chosen direction is wise.
  • Allow part of your organizational attention to be fixed on the challenges of tomorrow rather than the worries of today.

 

Tobias Kähäri is a Senior Consultant at FiloProcess, an independent Swedish consultancy firm passionate about realizing the value of product information.