Changes to change?

Graphic of two cartoon roads; one is straight from point A to point B, and the second is curvy with traffic warning signs and barricades.All your change initiatives roll out precisely according to plan – right?

No? Hmmm…

Welcome to reality. As boxer Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And as the Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke said, “No battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy.”

In other words, your carefully-thought-out plan for change is going to encounter … change.

We all know this, but nonetheless we tend to go into change initiatives brandishing our beautiful Gantt charts and budgets and resource allocations as if they’re carved in stone.

And laying it out for our teams as if … it’s carved in stone.

They know better. We do too, of course, but in those moments they actually know better than we do. We’ve put so much work into those charts, budgets, and allocations. How could they possibly go wrong?

So what happens when the inevitable happens, and your plans for change need to … change?

You lose trust and credibility with your team, for one thing. Even though they knew things would change (and probably rolled their eyes at your certainty), when the, let’s say, adjustments must be made, they see how your certainty has been proven wrong. And that leads to doubt in whatever you say next about how to proceed.

We’re told we should communicate change with confidence about what we want to accomplish and how we’re going to get there. And that’s perfectly valid. Teams need to know the reasons and need for the change, and they need to know the path forward if they’re to walk it.

But we also need to be clear that there will be adjustments – changes – as the process unfolds.

There will be changes to the change, and that’s okay, expected, and completely normal.

It’s not about appearing indecisive, unconfident, or weak as a leader. Quite the opposite: it’s acknowledging that there are things that will be discovered, bumped into, as the change progresses, and that those things will require modifications to the original plans.

It’s simply setting expectations appropriately, right from the very beginning.

Because when people are told to expect adjustments to the plan, and then those adjustments happen, you’re a prophet, not an idiot.

If you’re a technology consultant or vendor, how do you set these appropriate expectations with your clients – without making them doubt your expertise? Contact me and we’ll set a time to talk about it!