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  • Writer's pictureSean Lewis

It's not about the process


Balance-driven Change

When I arrived at a new company with the upgraded role to Chief Operating Officer, I had a lot to learn about the subject of “Change Management.”


To our workforce, it’s not just a pleasant way of saying, “we’re about to uproot everything you’ve believed about your job and place in the company." It's code for, "we're now going to pile on a $#@%-load of new work while still requiring you to do the old work as we move forward."


You know. The work that we’ve just told you is already obsolete.


Like me being less than successful at the beginning of achieving the goals for my new role, many change management efforts fail right at the beginning of the process.

For any job (whether a doctor, pilot, assembler, or newly minted leader), the quality of work will be governed not by the quantity of science and data developed, rather the level of art in the implementation of that job. The success of doing that job (by appropriately blending the science and the art) comes from a deep understanding of why the processes of the work exist. How they all fit together. What might happen when something is altered. With this wisdom (also the key ingredient to establishing a philosophy), you can determine where and when modifications need to be made. It's far more effective than simply being adept at implementing or managing the process.


The mechanics of the change management process is generally accepted to be:


 Prepare the company that change is happening - (getting "buy-in”)


• Build the plan – (the goals, the measures, who’s doing the work, and what needs to be done)


• Do the change - (implementation, identify a change champion)


• Keep the change - (solidify company culture)


• Improve through iteration - (self-reflection on measurables)


If you search the internet for this process, you can see that this is essentially the consensus. So why does it fail so often?


Because, like the search results, the majority of efforts at change assume the process begins at “Prepare the company for change.”


Instead, if we were to adopt a philosophy of change management rather than skipping right to process, we would first ask ourselves, are the people in our company ready and capable of change?


In a Balance-driven Business, the philosophy of change-management is built on achieving a balance between Connection, Influence, and Action


• Connection: If our leadership at the top, or the management in the middle don’t have a positive connection with each other or the workforce, we cannot influence the employees who are required to do the work of change.


• Influence: When there is influence, by definition there is respect. When there is respect, there will be trust that the changes are necessary, positive, and the employees' (also the managers') positions are safe beyond the transition.


• Action: That influence, born of respect, and driving belief in the necessity of the changes actually compels action toward the change. These actions will now incorporate all the "standard" processes that we discussed above. What’s different here is the necessity for “management” of the change is greatly reduced, because employee actions are born from influence rather than fear, or even by “command.”


Once influence and connection have been achieved, we can honestly assess our company's capability for change. Do our employees (or even our managers) actually have the right skills to implement and maintain the progress we want to achieve? From here, the correct strategy and work-plan can be determined. We can establish a priority of activities. We can set a realistic timeline for the changes to be accomplished, and when we can actually begin to see progress. 


In short, Balance-driven Change understands that "Connection drives Influence. Influence compels action. Action precipitates progress."


The first days at my new role were grueling. We were achieving, but not wholly. Not together. Not without much discomfort for everyone.


Because I was simply beginning from and following a "standard" process for change, I was wrongfully putting process over people. My teams saw this. They felt this. So I wasn't able to establish a connection. I was failing.


Change wasn't happening. 


If our company’s leaders and managers lack true connection with our employees, we don’t truly have influence within our team...


OUR COMPANY IS NOT YET READY OR CAPABLE OF CHANGE.


We may complete our desired actions, but we shouldn’t bet that the quality will be to expectation, or that any changes we've made will be sustained for any length of time.

Change, as with anything, seldom begins at process.


When I changed myself to begin from this philosophy, everything changed.

For the better.

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