Thinking Strategically About Change
Change is good. At least, that’s what they say. But when faced with change, many of us duck and cover. Change may be good, but it’s also really scary.
What if the changes we face in our organizations negatively impact our quality of life, how we feel about our jobs, or even the very nature of the organization itself? What if we decide that we can’t handle the change? What if we are tasked with being a change leader but we don’t fully agree with the changes being made?
There are a thousand “What if?” scenarios that might come to pass, but the only questions that we need to answer immediately are a) is the change something we can support, as individuals, team members, and change leaders and b) is the change a good strategic move.
Reconciling the question of whether we can support the change is something that individuals will need to grapple with on their own. There is no “right” answer to this question, as being able to support an organizational change (or not) has as much to do with personal values as it does with fear of the unknown—and sometimes more.
The second question is one that can be answered somewhat more objectively. When it’s carefully thought through, strategic change is designed to take into account all of the factors that could (or will) affect the business and create a workable, realistic plan for making changes that will allow the organization to capitalize on opportunities and mitigate threats to the business.
There is nothing lazy or half-hearted about strategic change. Strategic change is not taken on willy-nilly. Strategic change is not organic. It doesn’t come about through the sheer force of charismatic leader’s will, nor is it something that gets put into action after a team member has a cool dream—no matter how visionary and forward-thinking that team member may be.
In contrast, this type of change is some of the most carefully controlled, precisely planned, thoughtfully executed, and closely measured change there is. Though it may evolve organically once more information has been collected about the business environment, regulatory considerations, competitor movement, and changes in the industry (just to name a few), strategic change is to training for a cross-country marathon as organic change is to periodically heading out for a light jog around the block.
Strategic change takes planning, and a lot of it. But when it all comes down to it, the question of whether the change under consideration qualifies as a good strategic move requires that you thoughtfully answer a few simple questions:
- What are the problems that you’re trying to solve with this change?
- In what, specific ways would making this change solve the problems you’ve identified?
- Does this change demonstrate change leadership, or are you simply following what your industry competitors are doing?
- If you’re a change follower rather than a change leader, why would your end users seek out your products or services rather than those of your competitors?
- In what other ways might these problems be solved?
- What are the forces at work that might have an impact (positive or negative) on the strategic change you’re trying to make?
- Who will be affected by the change, and in what ways?
- When considering the strategic change and its impact on you, others, or the organization, what are the things that are within your power to control?
- Do the benefits of the change outweigh the risks?
Answering these questions clearly, completely, and honestly will provide you with the initial direction you need to decide how to proceed going forward. Strategic change requires that you think carefully, objectively, and honestly about your current situation and the future you envision for yourself, your team, and your organization, and if you’re like so many other leaders, time is a precious and extraordinarily limited resource.
But if you’re passionate about making this change—and making it successfully—the time you take thinking through the change process will be well worth the effort.