Archive for January, 2013

How to make change happen

Last week we spent a day at the beach, and as I walked along in the shallow waves, I was surprised at the strength of the water going opposite the tidal direction.  At the time the tide was going out, and certainly the water pulled back out to sea strongly.  But equally strong it seemed, were the waves heading into shore.  To the extent that a range of lovely shells, seaweeds and other not-so-lovely debris headed in on each wave and some was left on the beach for us to find.  In each set of waves, there was only a small difference in how far back to sea the water actually moved.  And yet the tide does goes in and then out to schedule. It struck me that this was an excellent analogy for strategy implementation (and usually that means change!).

When you are implementing something new, it often feels like those waves.  For every movement forward you make, there are many actions and behaviours pulling in the opposite direction, or just clinging to the existing ways of doing things.  It seems that for every piece of progress you make, there are equal areas of resistance.  This can be frustrating – especially if you have a time frame you are working to.

Most change management theory, in a nutshell,  works on persuading the people affected by the change that it is a good idea, and doing lots of communication about why you are changing and how it will all work.  This is all validated stuff and I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do it.  However, in my experience, no matter how well this is all managed, there will be pockets of resistance and it will take longer than you would like to get things implemented.  So what can we learn from the sea about making change happen?  Here are my thoughts:

  1. It takes persistance over time.  Assume you will need to keep communicating about the changes for some time, and plan to keep monitoring behaviours and practices well into the future to ensure things do not slip back in the wrong direction.  I encourage clients to keep strategy actions in their plans until such time as they are able to be regularly monitored somewhere else in their day to day processes.
  2. You might feel like half the time you are going backwards. Progress might seem small at times, but as long as you are generally moving in the right direction you will get there.  Think the old class tale of the rabbit and the tortoise.
  3. There’s likely to be benefits from resistance.  Often the questions asked, or issues raised, are matters that could cause problems down the track or result in better outcomes.  I was recently  involved in a project where a recommended action was going to cost double the usual amount.  It seemed the best idea to the project team for various reasons, but when some resistance arose and questions were asked, it prompted some looking at alternatives and a far superior option was uncovered.  At the time it appeared to be slowing things down and putting at risk some of the timeframes, but actually the resistance turned out to be beneficial.
  4. If a massive force of nature like the sea can change direction every few hours, creating and implementing change in our organizations ought to be a doddle, oughtn’t it?  Of course it rarely is!  But take heart that if the sea can keep  moving and changing, surely your people can.  Keep insisting on the actions and behaviours you need from them and over time it will happen.

4 reasons NOT to make New Year Resolutions

I’m not sure who came up with the idea of New Year Resolutions.  I suppose it’s logical that a new year feels like a new start, so it seems a good time to set some new goals.  The problem is, they seem to be rarely successful.  Here’s why – and why if you haven’t made any this year, you shouldn’t feel guilty:

  1. They are often made in haste.  It’s often on New Year’s night in a party atmosphere, or at least a time of reminiscence, that people suddenly hit on a resolution.  If there’s been no real thought about it, and particularly how it’s going to be achieved, you’re unlikely to stick to it, or really make it happen.  It’s more like a wish you make when you blow out the birthday cake candles – if you’re really lucky it might come true without you having to do anything!  Hmmm…
  2. They are often made under the influence of alcohol or other dubious circumstances.  See above!
  3. The basis for making them is often regret, or at least some sense of dissatisfaction eg “I am overweight so this year I will lose weight”, “Last year I didn’t connect with many friends so this year I am going to be more social”.  This basis of setting goals fails to assess what your real priorities need to be and the reasons why you are not doing those things.  Without some positive vision of what you want going forward, you are unlikely to make the necessary changes.
  4. Resolutions usually stop at a vague statement, like “I will lose weight this year.”  Rarely do people apply the good old “SMART” formula that helps ensure the goal is able to be achieved.  Nor do they develop an implementation plan and a method of keeping themselves accountable for achieving it.

So if New Year resolutions are not a great way to set goals, what is?  Well perhaps a new year is a good time to sit down and do some strategic thinking.  You could ask yourself the following types of questions:

What might your world look like in five years time?

What will have changed and how?

What do you want your future to look like?

Where do you want to be at the start of 2018 – in business/career, personal life, health, financial, lifestyle and so on.

Based on that, where do you need to be next new year ie the start of 2014?

What’s the gap between now and then?

What do you need to take account of, that is likely to happen and be outside of your control?

So what then should your goals be for this year?

How will you achieve them – step by step?

What other information or resources do you need to achieve them?

How will you know if you are on track?

How will you keep your goals top of mind as you go about your daily routines?

These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself and then find answers to, to make successful goals.  But they don’t have to happen at 1 January!  Personally I take most of January to work through this process for my life and business.  Some of my clients prefer to do this at the end of the calendar year in preparation for the next year.  And for some of my clients, it makes more sense for them to do this at the start of their financial year, rather than the calendar year.  You might also choose your birthday month or some other significant time to prepare some annual goals.

So if you didn’t make New Year resolutions, no need to feel you missed out.  And if you did, it’s time to finish the process by answering all these questions and tying down your goals!


Jenni Murphy-Scanlon is an author, consultant and trainer specializing in strategic thinking and leadership. She offers you a free report on ‘How to Think Strategically’ at her website –

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