The challenge, adventure, or “task” of affecting change within an organization (or you can think of the entire world or your country or your city as an organization, too) has a few discrete phases. It’s given a variety of names and forms, but rather than Google all the variations … allow me to be ignorant and draw upon my own biases for a moment. Thus, expect whatever I say here to be not 100% accurate and most definitely not 100% applicable in every situation out there.
You will change
Expect the most change to happen in yourself — maybe a 1000 times more than anything you try to affect change. Why? Because a new journey — if sufficiently challenging — will alter your bearings. It will draw upon muscles that you don’t have and/or neurons that you haven’t yet trained. Be excited and curious about these changes you will experience — and try to identify them as a form of learning.
You’ll find both new ways to understand yourself and new ways to understand your relationships with people around you. Expect yourself to be surprised, disappointed, and only once in a while … delighted! When that delight comes … don’t linger on it for too long. But don’t let your steeled-self dismiss it. Use it as a point of calibration so that later on you can know what a North Star is supposed to feel like when you are in its orbit.
You will change others
As you rapidly change, you will inadvertently notice that others are changing around you, too, and at different speeds. Some will be faster than you, at par with you, and also behind you as well. You’ll never really know the relative speeds of folks around you until something negative occurs.
I liken it to experiencing a natural disaster that clears away all of that is perceived as “shared reality,” and all that remains is what is truly core. It’s bare. It’s “real reality” at its finest. It’s either a place of new hope and possibility, or it is a place of irrecoverable failure. I’ve never perceived it as the latter for some reason.
It’s likely because of my privileged position as someone who does not break easily. I most certainly fracture and feel pain. But I guess I am a self-craftsman in the art of kintsugi — the craft of repairing a broken vessel with a precious metal. So although it is visibly broken, it still can keep being used — with sufficiently aesthetic repair so as not to be embarrassing.
But all people do not have the same degree of self-repair that you might have. There will be some who will easily surpass you at this, too. It will inspire you to see that in action.
There will be some who have lost all their ability to feel compassion and simply are unbreakable. They aren’t the ones to emulate.
Those who fall behind will represent a challenge for you. But if there is one thing you should try to keep in mind: their reasons for falling behind are going to be all different. And complex. Because there are people — and people are complex. Take the time to understand them — and learn how you have been complicit in their challenges while being conscious of how they have also been complicit, too. They will often not be ready to hear about the latter, and it so does no good for you to attempt to do so. It isn’t about you. It is about them. Time tends to heal most things — not all, but most. And don’t neglect to keep the change going with those who are running at pace with you or are ahead of you. They need you — even if you think they are doing just fine.
The phases of successful change at any scale are:
1. People are impacted.
2. People feel impacted.
3. Some people voice the impact explicitly, while others voice it in the whispers.
4. Pushback outweighs acceptance.
5. Leaders falter. Confusion sets in.
6. Blame is assigned. The change starts to get undone.
7. People are impacted.
8. People feel impacted.
9. A miracle occurs. The change starts to take hold.
10. People feel the change.
11. People own the change.
12. Some agents of the change don’t make it to the finish line and are gone. Those who remain have survivor guilt, and are less willing to want to exact more change.
13. People pray that is the last of the change headed there way. And they stand ready with cautionary tales of what happens when leaders attempt to introduce change.
14. People eventually forget that the change ever happened, and start to be ready for accepting more change.
15. You have changed all the way throughout. Are you ready now to make more change?