Posts Tagged ‘strategic planning’

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.

3 ways to predict the future

To be an effective strategic thinker, it is essential to be able to think about your organisation in a future context. What’s the quickest and easiest way to figure out what that future might look like? Most of us don’t have a reliable crystal ball, so here’s three other methods, that are not too onerous:

1. Look for trends. In this time of information overload, it’s almost impossible to read and absorb everything. However, it is much easier than it used to be to identify trends. Once you start looking for trends in information you can identify more likely future scenarios. Trends start in the past so don’t forget to factor in what’s happened before (history repeats!).

2. Look for relevant information. If your organisation is in the Arts sector, what’s predicted for the primary industries may have little or no impact on you, but what’s happening in the home entertainment industry might. Look for relevant information and you will filter out a large percentage, more easily identifying trends relevant to you.

3. Read beyond the popular press. A lot of media space covers major world events that may have little relevance to your organisation’s future. Watch out for the smaller articles that may contain some gem of information. Read more in-depth magazines or find experts on-line who are worth listening to. Look up ‘futurists’ in wikipedia and check out some of their predictions that may be relevant to you. They do a lot of analysis for you.

It’s not likely you will predict everything about the future, but you can develop some realistic scenarios that help you better prepare your organisation for the future. You may also like to subscribe to my e-zine to get regular free articles aand other information to develop your strategic thinking skills. Go to

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How to think about the future

People often ask how they can make reference in conversations to the future. It’s inportant to do that if you are to be seen as strategic by others. Here’s a couple of simple ideas:

Look for trends in news sources: Lots of people read the newspaper or an on-line news source everyday and are certainly not strategic thinkers. The trick is in how you view the information. Strategic thinkers look for concepts, trends and practices that are likely to change some aspect of the future and then consider what that might mean for their organization. It’s also useful to have reliable information. Reading just one newspaper or on-line source is unlikely to be very reliable unless that editor happens to have amazing insight. Reading a variety of newspapers and/or on-line sources and watching for trends is likely to be more reliable. It may seem obvious to keep up with business trends, but this is not the only useful information. Look for articles about technology, demographics and lifestyle trends. Think about your organization and customers and what impacts on your product or service. Look out for information about those elements.

Notice the less topical news: Editors tend to focus us in on what they think is newsworthy and topical at the time. Sometimes relevant and ‘trend’ information can be missed while some other high profile event is occurring and getting most of the coverage. Take note of the small updates and not just the ‘big’ stories. Find other sources of news that might cause impacts on your industry. These are likely to be specialist magazines and journals, and more in-depth news publications. The reliability of this information is also likely to be greater than in daily news sources because journalists spend longer researching and there is greater credibility at stake.

Categories: Uncategorized
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