Let me explain…
A few years ago I was observing a sales coaching interaction, where the sales coach helped the coachee get to the point of acknowledging that they needed to start asking for the sale. And that was the end of the coaching session. It seemed such a waste, because that was the greatest opportunity to make a breakthrough. It was lost because the coach ignored the psychological and emotional component. Why was the person not asking for the sale? Was it because they didn’t know how, – or was it because of something a little more deep seated such as a fear of rejection? It’s equivalent to the brakes not being released, while pushing the pedal to the metal with the accelerator.
The psychological component is often the opportunity for the greatest breakthroughs, and in this post I’ll share how it’s what very often limits the success potential of Change Management, Kaizen and Innovation initiatives – along with the 3 steps to unleash the potential for improvement, innovation and greater breakthroughs in your organisation.
Step One: Conditioning for Change (as compared to Change Management)
Change management methods are largely about “pushing” people to adopt, accept and implement something new or different. The principles of growing the “urgency” and communicating the changes, explaining why the changes are being made from an organisational perspective, and education on how to implement the “new” are essentially the holy grail of change management.
The trouble is – change management is typically situational. It’s related to a particular project or change, and when change is happening at the pace it needs to happen at today – traditional change management may not be able to keep up, and it can be incredibly expensive for an organisation. On top of that – pushing change and urgency can create overwhelm.
Speaking of overwhelm – when we as mere mortals are overwhelmed we tend to put up walls. Levels of resistance and denial rise, people become more self-absorbed, insular, protective, ego centric, and are less willing to work as a team, try new things and take risks. Progress and change become painfully slow, and sometimes just plain painful.
Conditioning for Change on the other hand is about helping people understand the “nature of change”, as well as their own personal conscious and unconscious perceptions, reactions and responses in relation to change and transition. It’s about helping people to reframe change and challenges in general to be able to see the possibilities and opportunities that change provides – as opposed to coming from a place of fear. Conditioning for change helps people view change as an energy to be harnessed and channelled –it’s like using a windmill to turn wind into a powerful source of energy.
When change is viewed in this manner – people are excited by it. They lift their heads and look around them for the opportunities because they expect them to be there, they are more willing to learn, unlearn and relearn – they are more curious, collaborative, open, and willing to contribute and take risks and experiment. It opens them to a possibility of doing things differently and smarter, as compared to putting their head down and trying to do more of the same faster, which can lead to burnout. Change can be viewed as a wave – which can be anticipated and surfed to propel further, faster and with less effort.
Conditioning for change is about releasing the fear of change, reducing or relinquishing resistance to change, increasing resilience and buoyancy – and empowering people to look for the opportunities that change and challenges provide. It’s like taking the foot off the brake, and has the potential to make change management vastly more successful, and ironically often superfluous.
Oh, and by the way – the people most likely to resist new ideas for improvements and innovation are typically “management”, and long term incumbents.
Step Two: Educate
If you want your people to see opportunities for improvement and innovation – you also need to teach them how. Teach them how to question, challenge assumptions and beliefs – and give them the tools and techniques to innovate, and the opportunity to practice and experiment.
The best way to stay ahead of the curve competitively is to ensure that everyone in the organisation is empowered with the ability and desire to improve and innovate every day, and if they feel involved in, responsible for, and passionate about the changes – they’ll not only “not resist it” – they’ll drive it forward. Following a session of change conditioning within a 1 day Adapter Factor workshop at least two potentially gamechanging and disruptive initiatives were identified in less than 40 minutes, and the people involved had an absolute blast. Once you know how… it all becomes whole lot easier.
Step Three: Environment
Trust and a powerful “why” are pre-requisites for an organisation where innovation and improvement is “viral”. Add to this a willingness to embrace constructive tension, and an innovation system complete with resources, processes and incentives to innovate and make improvements – and abra cadabra – it’s pure magic. And it extends well beyond product innovation.
If you’re thinking you can’t afford this, don’t make the mistake of thinking that breakthroughs and innovation need to be risky and expensive – it doesn’t need to be. There are exceedingly smart ways to do it.
For those organisations wanting to become truly adaptive and innovative combine the power of conditioning for change, with optimising for agility..
So there we have it – a simple 3 step recipe for stimulating innovation and greater breakthroughs in your organisation. And in case you’ve missed it – “conditioning for change” is extremely important. It’s the innovation shadow that no-one talks about – and the absence of it can cost you hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in initiatives that don’t work. It’s also the essential ingredient that will allow the pace of progress within your organisation to exceed the external – with much less effort. When you condition for change and optimise for agility, change becomes an energy source which can propel you forward, instead of something to be feared.
By Lisa McCarthy (M.Comm). Lisa is the creator of the Optimal Agility methodology. She is the driving force behind the vision and strategy for oAi, providing leadership and direction for partners and teams across the network. Through her speaking, coaching, corporate training & private consulting services, CEOs, executives and teams quickly discover new possibilities and opportunities, and develop the desired adaptations in their culture and organisations that counteract the rapid market and environmental shifts that besiege them.
Her areas of expertise and interest include business agility, entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, innovation, effectuation, management innovation, personal development, human potential, blue economy, leadership and coaching.