Get Real: Plan for the True Magnitude of Change

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Linda Ackerman Anderson
Dean Anderson

How often have you seen leaders announce a major change effort without having thought through what was really required to get it done? People struggle with such a change because without knowing its true scope, they cannot effectively fit it into their already burdened workloads. Employees can end up feeling jerked around because the leaders back-peddle and try to stop or modify the change once they grasp its true requirements. Changes kicked off like this seldom succeed, and more often than not, damage morale.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Executives can take a few disciplined steps at the onset of change to ensure that they understand and commit to the full magnitude of what they are asking of the organization. They can identify up front what will be touched by the change, who will be impacted, and what resources (human and capital) will be required to get it done quickly and efficiently. This requires leaders “to get real about their change efforts.” By doing this up-front work, leaders set up both the change and the organization for success. Here are the Five Steps to Getting Real about Change.

1. Confirm the desired outcomes and vision for your change.

Create a compelling, yet realistic picture of what results you intend the change to produce for your organization. Include how the organization will operate when it has successfully achieved your outcomes. Be as specific as possible, realizing that initially your outcomes may be very general.

2. Identify what specific change initiatives are necessary to achieve your desired results.

Identify the various areas where change will be required, such as changes to structure, services, products, business processes, IT, management systems, customer contact, mindset, behavior, or culture. Overtly name the initiatives that will drive these changes, and map how they interact with each other.

3. Perform an Initial Impact Analysis on these initiatives.

This is the heart of the Get Real Strategy. An Initial Impact Analysis is a quick and simple “check the box” exercise. It identifies the organizational/technical and human/cultural areas of your current operations that will be altered or affected by your change effort. This reveals the real magnitude of work required to achieve your desired outcomes.

Impact areas might include those listed above, as well as things like governance, union relations, job design, skills, teamwork, norms, resources, and dozens more.

Identifying impact areas opens leaders’ eyes about the true scope of change they are initiating. Why? Because each item will require time, people, planning, action, resources, and oversight.

Is this exercise too operational for executives? Hardly! Identifying the true impacts is strategic work, and often reveals show-stoppers and levels of complexity that cause the leaders to rethink the change’s outcomes, or more likely, its resource base and pacing. Adjusting outcomes, scope, pacing or resources early will save you from tremendous headaches later.

4. Assess your organization’s readiness and capacity to take on this magnitude of work.

Readiness is a factor of recent change history, current morale, and trust in leadership, among other things. It sets the emotional stage for whether people will positively engage in change. Capacity is a product of workload, skills, resources, and time.

Now, having a more accurate assessment of the magnitude of your impacts, you can identify what level of readiness and capacity you will need for the change to succeed. Be sure to consider the emotional residue of your organization’s recent history with change and its current workload, priorities, and climate.

Remember, each of the impact areas will need specific people to oversee them. Additional people will certainly be involved —in cross-functional meetings, studies, design sessions, decision-making, and the like. This is all time required away from these people’s normal operational responsibilities and will influence capacity. Make sure that the people involved have legitimate and adequate time to do the work required for the change.

Once you have mapped how you are going to engage your stakeholders in each of your impact areas, you can more easily assess whether you have the capacity to succeed, given operational priorities and goals.

5. Re-scope your change outcomes with renewed—and informed— commitment.

Depending on the level of readiness and capacity to succeed, your leaders may need to re-scope your change outcomes. At least now they can make intelligent decisions about whether the change as currently scoped is set up to succeed. This is much smarter than simply naming a change and blindly assuming that the organization can actually handle it.

Whether it proceeds as scoped or gets stopped or modified, you can rest assured that your leaders will be far more committed to the change having done this due diligence to identify its real impacts. Plus, your people will understand the change better, and your current operations will be less negatively impacted because your leaders will make far more intelligent decisions regarding pacing and resource allocation. Help your leaders get real about the magnitude of your change. You owe it to your people and organization.

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With this extensively upgraded second edition, Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson solidify their status as the leading authorities on change leadership and organizational transformation. This is without question the most comprehensive approach for leaders who are serious about making change a strategic discipline. Beyond Change Management is an intelligent book by two of the most knowledgeable and accomplished masters of their craft, and it’s one that every conscious change leader should adopt as their guide to creating more meaningful organizations.

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Read this great book by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson and learn how to use their multi-dimensional approach to lead transformation masterfully and consciously!

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Author of the New York Times best-sellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

An important move toward a more integral business consulting approach, very much recommended for those interested in the topic and ways to actually apply it. 

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Author, The Integral Vision, A Brief History of Everything, and over a dozen other best-sellers

Dean and Linda are core to the field of conscious change leadership, and continue to stretch and push its boundaries in this rich and deep compendium. This is a must read from two consummate thought leaders who have devoted their careers to developing highly successful change leaders. Read it and immediately improve your change leadership or consulting success.

Bev Kaye
CEO, Career Systems International
Author of Love 'em or Lose 'em: Getting Good People to Stay

This book is about mastery of leading the transformational change process written by masters of the craft.  For corporate leaders and consultants who consider themselves committed students of the process of organizational change.

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Author of Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos

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Co-author with Warren Bennis of JUDGMENT: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

Once again, Dean and Linda have nailed it! Beyond Change Management is an extraordinary book examining the shifts in change management that have occurred over the years. This book offers real, practical solutions for change practitioners to become extraordinary conscious change leaders.

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Powerful business solutions to the current chaos facing many organizations today. Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson get to the heart of change, the human touch, by using timeless techniques and tools.
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Having applied this methodology for two years to manage change inside Microsoft, it has been instrumental in our ability to land change effectively, engage employees and deliver results quickly. The Change Leader’s Roadmap allows us to lead change with precision and minimal outside consulting, while at the same time growing change leadership capability internally. This is the most complete change methodology we have found anywhere.

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This newest edition of The Change of Leader’s Roadmap is an invaluable, comprehensive and practical guide for envisioning an organization’s desired future, designing the structures and practices necessary to make it happen, and implementing them effectively. The book describes the change process in nine distinct phases and outlines the activities and tasks that need to occur in each phase. It provides change leaders with an essential map for successfully traversing the complex and uncertain terrain of transformational change.   

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Senior Scholar in Residence
MSOD Program, American University
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