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How to Accelerate Change and Lead an Organization Forward (Episode 64)

Jake Jacobs worked as a bartender during his university years, which is when he first got an opportunity to look at the psychology of change in a business. He contracted with the owner of the bar to work on a consulting project with the goal of making it a better place to work.

He interviewed people there and set up meetings, and heard positive feedback that it was working. At that point, he realized he was onto something. He enjoyed the process of applying psychology to a business so much that he wanted to make a career out of change management.

From there, he worked on big consulting projects at Ford Motors and Marriott, both of which taught him that the key to a successful organization is a collective effort to find ways to better serve the customer. That stems from a constant awareness of the status quo.

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Importance of Awareness in Change Management

A good leader should be in touch with who they are, as well as having a sense of direction in terms of growth. Jacobs suggests creating a list of adjectives that leaders and aspiring leaders want to be described as. Then, go to your manager or close colleagues and have them create a list of attributes that describe you as you are now. Compare the two and and use those as a starting point for self-reflection and accelerating change.

The other important awareness is of others. To effectively communicate and understand each other, we have to be able to step into a different world. Jacobs likes to say that we should always try to communicate with someone in their language rather than getting caught up in our own paradigms, lingo, and perspective. This forces us to be more aware of the other person, and more perceptive to what they have to say in response. Most importantly, it grants a comfort level for more honest and revealing communication.

As organizations start to scale, the ability to communicate well becomes increasingly vital. Such organizations also begin compartmentalizing areas, so certain people will be experts in one product but not another. In these cases, being able to communicate in a way that is understood by all other parties can make change management far more effective.

Four Elements of Accelerating Change

In Jacobs’ book, he describes four things that are necessary for successful organizational change.

Levers

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I can move the world”

– Archimedes

To Jacobs, levers are anything that give you more bang for your buck – they magnify your efforts. The lever itself is anything that provides an opportunity for greater impact. These eight levers can make change management efforts more successful.

Pay attention to continuity. When people work on change, that’s all they focus on. However, it is just as useful to think about what not to change. The values that define an organization, as well as the things that it does well are important to highlight to increase confidence and create a firm foundation on which to create change.

Think and act as if the future were now. This lever is a paradigm shift that encourages leaders to plan for the future in the current moment. This involves paying more attention to cultural changes, technological innovations, and new market models.

Design it yourself. Don’t just follow a prescriptive formula. Create a process specific to your organization and your goals based on what is right for you, then carry that with you into the future.

Create a common database. Information is power, but in the world of change management, it is only useful when it is in the hands of everyone. Data shows that seventy percent of change objectives fail to meet the desired result. Change is not easy, and requires firm organizational infrastructure to succeed. Part of that infrastructure is the widespread availability of information on internal processes to people inside the organization, at all levels.

Start with impact, follow the energy. Rather than starting from the top down or bottom up, look for the opportunity to make a difference, which will give you the most momentum. Begin there and then go to where people want to move next.

Develop a future people own. People are only invested in goals that affect them in some meaningful, compelling, positive way. Those are the projects that people will work hardest for, and those are the ones that will ultimately be the most successful.

Find opportunities so people can make a meaningful difference. Change is a unique opportunity that requires commitment above and beyond people’s day jobs. When one leader or group of leaders create change, they should find ways to bring in people from all over the organization by creating an opportunity for them to do something truly meaningful.

Make change work part of daily work. Everyone has full schedules, so adding another committee for change work can feel overwhelming. Instead, integrate it in smaller pieces throughout the workweek to make it more achievable and manageable.

Resources

The more you take advantage of the levers, the less resources you’ll need to make the same amount of change. The resources that you save can then be invested in research and development or other innovative business practices that didn’t make the priority list before.

Pivot Point

Clearly defined results are crucial to making change happen effectively. At every stage of the process, know the milestones you need to reach, and have standardized methods of measuring how far you are from your end goal.

Moving the Right Object

Create the right goals. Everyone in the organization should have a common understanding about what the end result looks like, how it will be measured, and why it is compelling and worth devoting considerable organizational effort to.

Approaching a Rapidly Changing World

With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the world rapidly came to a halt. At the same time, almost paradoxically, the rate of change in many industries exponentially increased. As people stopped to think about the current state of work, they came up with new and innovative ideas for what a workplace should look like, and how self-organizing systems and companies should be run to promote ease and efficiency.

Companies shouldn’t rely on the old way that we used to do things. Instead, they should invest in finding what works best for their workforce and strive to accelerate change.

Discover more stories like this on other episodes of The Jeff Bullas Show.

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