If change is as constant as everyone claims it is, have you ever wondered why it never comes to your workplace – or why it’s so hard to get started in your personal life?
I guess my problem is, I’m talking about positive change.
And, if you find it hard to make those changes in your personal life you know you should, it’s easy to see why it’s difficult to get organizations to do the same.
Bad business habits can be just as tough to break as wasting time with Angry Birds.
However, although it will seldom bounce in as boldly as more negative developments, there are things you can do to help change happen, either at work or in your personal life.
Develop patience & commitment – Conventional wisdom holds that it takes six weeks before you see results from exercise, which is handy because conventional wisdom also says it takes six weeks for a new habit to get established. I think this is arbitrary and unrealistic. For example, based on my experience with hot fudge pound cake sundaes, I think bad habits can get established in about five minutes. Just the same, the point is to prepare yourself for a long haul, and provide yourself with the inner strength to keep at it.
Make it matter – If you want to bring change to your workplace, you’ll also have to develop some outer strength, or support. This means you need to inspire other people to want to do something about what bothers you. Clarifying the consequences of inaction can help, and it’s O.K. if you point out how dire those consequences could be. Just don’t get too doom and gloomy about it all. Show the problem, and present positive alternatives. That is, unless the sky really is falling. Then it’s time to set your hair on fire, run through the halls and prepare your resume.
Go wide – Whether you hope to bring change to your work or private life, take a broad view regarding those who will be affected by it. How will the kind of change you have in mind affect your colleagues? Other departments? Your family? The more affected parties are dealt into your change proposal from the beginning, the more likely they are to support it.
Focus in – No matter how much needs to be changed, you can’t do it all at once. It’s not possible to change your department’s reporting procedures and scheduling practices the same week. And although you can try to start eating more healthily and exercising more at the same time, it’s helpful if you make one a priority for a while. But don’t forget those other items!
Establish credibility – It will be easier for you to convince others to take you up on your suggestions if you’ve established your bona fides first. So, be the colleague you’d like to have. Do good work. Be kind, thoughtful, dependable, responsible and generous. Achievement at other Boy Scout skills, like knot-tying, is not required, but knowing how to untangle situations will enhance your rep.
Put in the work – If your change involves something at work, do your homework and everybody else’s. Research the problem, document it, spell out your proposed solution and document that. Find those with the authority to give the go-ahead, talk to everyone involved again and develop contingency plans to deal with problems in the roll-out. This can help even if you’re doing something as simple as striving to get in shape and help the planet by biking to work. Think through your route, clothes issues and what to do when it rains so unexpected developments don’t dampen your resolve.
Plan to measure – Be sure to include yardsticks, benchmarks and other signs of success as you draw up your plans. You need to determine in advance what kinds of good news to look for, and what you’ll be able to show to all those affected parties.
Kick it off – Planning is good, but at a certain point you have to go for it! Good luck!
Once it’s underway… Don’t think that it’s time for the happily-ever-afters. Watch what’s going on. Measure the results. Talk to people affected by the change to see how it’s working out for them. Compile a report for officials if it’s a work program. If it’s a personal initiative, reward yourself with something appropriate, like cool bicycling gear or a massage.
Next – as they say on the shampoo bottles – repeat. And you’ll want to. Successful change builds on itself, and spurs you on to further development. Why wait? Get started now.
by Danielle Dresden