Monday, May 12, 2008

How to implement change

I am often asked, by company leaders and individual artists alike, what is the best way to implement change. They know that things can't just keep going on as they are - but they are totally engulfed in the day-to-day stuff - and nothing happens.

So how do you implement change?

There is one fundamental thing to know: the way to do it is to change behavior first, not attitude: behavior change will lead to attitude change, ask any adult educator. The other way round doesn't work. And this applies to you and me too!

All companies, from huge to tiny, do best when they bring in some help to with implementing that change. But everyone has their own speed and need. What change techniques might work best for you and your business? Here are some effective alternatives.

A kickstart.

Some people do well with a short sharp stimulus that will work to get them pointed in the right direction with defined tasks, timelines, accountability and the impetus to move forward. One or two intense half-day workshops can often be all they need to get them off the dime: they get the guidance to develop their own strategies and put them into practice.

Regular steady input.

Others respond well to the regularity of guidance and to-dos and accountability that Business Coaching gives them. This is probably the strongest tool for getting behavior to change: do what needs to be done over time, and keep on doing it until it becomes second nature.

"Doing it" is always a more effective thing than being told to do it. This is a very different technique from the one-off workshop that for some people can come and go and leave no trace. A commitment to weekly sessions over 12 weeks is a great way to start. I've been through it myself and it was enormously effective.


When there is a specific task to be done, and you don't have the resources or expertise in-house, you can bring in an experienced professional to take care of it. Just as you do with accounting, or lawyering. This works brilliantly in many cases. But in the case where the outcome is a report that says that the staff have to do certain things differently, or carry out some additional tasks - then all too often that report sits ignored on the shelf and everyone carries on as if it never happened. Unless...

There are important ways to prevent this. One is to follow the report with a period of coaching (see above) that provides the guidance, stimulus and accountability over time to effect the behavior change. This stuff works really well.

Another technique for changing behavior that can be enormously effective with a group is the workshop. It is a way to get team members to engage themselves in an intense experience of give and take. They are guided to devise their own tactics for implementing the changes. They are no longer passive participants in the consulting process but they become a part of it and become committed to its success - and to each other. They can own the results.

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