If you want successful change - make context matter

There’s a famous saying “May you live in interesting times.”

There’s debate as to the saying’s origin, but there’s certainly no doubt that it applies today.

The world really is an amazing place and change is everywhere, particularly as we live in a VUCA world.  This is a world which is:

  • Volatile – because everything is connected and rapidly changing
  • Uncertain – because everything will continue to change and in ways we often can’t predict
  • Complex – as there is a multiplicity of stakeholders, strategies, customer needs, and supplier options, with varying needs and impacts
  • Ambiguous – as there is lots of information, but we are often unsure as to what it all means and how it will play out

What this means is that change doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

Changes in teams, organisations, communities and the environment takes place amidst a stream of other changes.  There are connections, dependencies and impacts many of which are known, and many of which are unknown.

This is why context is critical.

If you don’t understand the context in which your change is occurring it’s almost impossible to be successful.

It’s like a surgeon trying to treat a patient, but having no idea what caused the illness and therefore what remedy to use or surgery to perform.

Successful change requires you to take the time to think broadly and deeply.  Be curious and don’t think that just because you’ve seen something before, that it will turn out the same way.

If you want success, examine seven key factors:

  1. Identify what’s driving the change – both internal and external to the organisation
  2. Understand what alignment is necessary to ensure the change meets strategic objectives and will deliver the desired benefits
  3. Identify what forces in the system could prevent or impede the change from being successful
  4. Know what structural inertia or bureaucracy needs to be removed to ensure the change can be implemented
  5. Understand how the organisation’s culture can be strategically aligned and altered to support the transition and sustainability of the change
  6. Know how the many moving parts of the change should be best coordinated (including with other changes that are occurring) to ensure implementation success
  7. Ensure the organisation, its leaders, and end users are flexible and adaptive so they are able to cope with the challenges, constraints and opportunities that will arise through the transformation

Once you’ve understood these elements, you are then better placed to develop the right approach and tactics to address and resolve.

Change happens.  Make it work for you.