“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ Whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.
Steve Jobs was a wise man who died too young. Yet, during his short life, he drove and achieved an amount of change that many of us only dream of – although, each and one of us possess the capability of being catalysts and active agents of change. Our circumstances are different, but it is not about background who becomes a successful catalyst for change and who not. As a matter of fact, those who are determined to achieve will do so, no matter how difficult circumstances sometimes may be.
Driving change is always individual. Driving change, and being a change agent is not about status or title, not even about material possessions. Change is continuous, and leads to evolution. Very often change management is referred to as change projects in IT, but change management is much more than that. Change management includes the capability of driving and leading change in one´s personal life as well. We are all affected by changes in society, driven by other individuals (change agents). Some changes are impossible to avoid, so adaptation and going with the flow is often necessary in order to stay well-integrated.
However, there are many things we can influence on a personal level.
“Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Advice for leading change in your life:
– Always embrace change, and see it as something positive. Change often brings new possibilities.
– Remember to rest, but also keep on moving. When life becomes too comfortable, there is a need for development and growth.
– Be proactive. It is far better to have the ability to influence change than being hit by sudden, even radical change, when it is already too late to have a say in the course of happenings.
– Make a long-term plan for your life, at least for the upcoming five years. Include both business and private life in your plan. Where do you want to be in five years? What do you want to achieve? How will you achieve it?
– You can have several different plans: one for business life, one for your private life. If you have a long-term plan (say, for the next five years), divide your long-term plan into shorter time periods (e.g. the coming year 2015, for the coming quarter, a weekly schedule, and a daily schedule). Leave some space for adjustments as well, and for non-planned time (otherwise, life can become too boring).
Why is it so important to make plans, have goals, and lead change?
If YOU do not take responsibility for your life, and make plans, you will either end up achieving nothing, or someone else making the plans for your life. Which do you prefer? Being guided/directed, or proactively leading your life into your desired direction?
Leading change is important for everyone, not only for those with a professional designation for being change agents/leaders/managers.
Change can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but the more you step out of your comfort zone, and develop your ability to live with constant, small changes, the better you will feel in the long run. It is far better to be proactive and lead small changes on a regular basis, than wait for something to happen (and the more you procrastinate, the more effort will you have to give at a later stage).
“Change can be scary, but what is even scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing”.
Change Leadership, in its very essence, should focus upon improvement and growth. Without an actual purpose, and driving change only for the sake of change, change is a waste of everyone’s time.
Well organized is half done, but only very successful plans always have space for modifications. Only geniuses can master chaos, and however much we love agile project management, an essential skill for any change leader is the ability of focusing on key strategic issues, drive change with a dynamic effort, and with the goal in mind. (Green, M. Change Management Masterclass. 2007.)
Leading change equals the ability of leading development through enabling continuous growth, and improvement. Leading change is also strategy, and an ability of analyzing the PESTLE environment. In organizational settings, change management programs and projects need to be based upon the organization’s vision, mission, and strategy. Change projects, however narrow or extensive, will be successful when core values, goals, constant work, and communication are well aligned. Depending upon the needs and the breadth of the change initiative, mobilizing everyone involved is of utmost importance. In the organizational setting, change has to be led simultaneously and with consistent throughout the whole organization, and on an individual level. Traditionally, change has been thought of as something activated and triggered from top management, but in today’s learning organizations change initiatives can come from anyone, and basically anyone in an organization can be a change agent, formally or informally. In any organization, it is important for management to understand, that the needs for change may also be communicated from employees who are in direct customer contact, e.g. based upon feedback from customers. Therefore, in traditional, hierarchical settings, change can very well be initiated from a “lower” organizational level upwards. In democratic, low-hierarchy organizations, change projects can be successfully executed through participation of everyone involved. Successful involvement also increases the level of integrity. The most successful organizations also know how to involve their clients when driving change.
“One person can be a change catalyst, a transformer in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader”. (Mike Green. Change Management Masterclass. 2007)
Successful change management projects do require realistic, but also optimistic individuals with a strong desire for achievement. Change management also requires a lot of dreaming, and daring. A change project must be managed skillfully, and if there is a strict budget, it is even more important to meet the financial target. However, how can the final financial gain be calculated if the project is successful in for example advancement of knowledge and learning, or even satisfaction index of employees? If the organization e.g. sets a goal to develop sales skills, the return on investment may be a lot better than first calculated. Therefore, e.g. employee development is a very important factor for organizational development.
In short, before becoming a change agent and thus a catalyst for change, practice on your pitch and make sure to have responses to the following questions:
– What kind of change do I want to initiate?
– What are the circumstances (i.e. am I acting as an informal/formal change agent, and in what kind of setting, e.g. as an entrepreneur, a consultant, an employee, a middle manager, a customer/client, a member of an organization, a citizen and so on)?
– Who do I need to involve in successfully driving the change initiative?
– What is/are the goal/s?
– What kinds of risks are involved (if any)?
– What kind of communication does this require, and how will I communicate successfully?