I was recently asked to speak at my son’s school on behalf of a wonderful program he has been a part of for the last two years. The parents in this school have a choice to make about where they send their children to participate in this program. They can keep their children at their districted school or bus them to another school that has the same program. I was asked to speak about my experience in that program, my son’s experience, and how we made the decision to stay at the home school.
There were so many reasons that we chose to stay, but there was an important one that I thought was worth sharing with you. The sense of community, the wonderful principle, the amazing teachers, and the fact that he would be able to stay with his friends, were all very important decision points. However, there was one that came from my experience as a change management expert, helping people deliver change in organizations in the most effective and sustainable way possible.
Ultimately, what made the decision to keep our son in the home school for this program was leveraging one of my favorite change management techniques: pick one thing.
Yes, just that simple. Pick ONE thing. Whatever you’re trying to implement, whenever you’re making a significant change in yourself, in someone's life, or at work…the best thing you can do to ensure success with that change is to pick one thing.
Take your one thing, focus on it, and then hit the accelerator to drive change in that single area.
I wanted to ensure that my son would have the best opportunity for success in his new program, and to do that, the new program needed to be the one thing that he had to focus on. The one big change. This program was going to require a lot more homework, a lot more focus, and discipline to get as much as possible out of the content in school.
If I had sent him to a new school, he would have had so many new changes happening all at once and the desired focus of him excelling in this new program would have been at risk. He would have had to focus on making new friends, getting used to the new routines, finding his way around the school, and many other factors in addition to this accelerated pace of learning.
His home school was great for so many reasons, but keeping him there was critical because of my one thing principle. He needed to have only one significant change happening at one time so that he could make this change as successful as possible.
This is a principle that is easily applicable to your own situation. Imagine you were trying to build a PMO or create project management discipline in your organization. What about trying to implement a new software system or change a business practice? How about changing the organizational structure to better suit the needs of the business operations? These things require people to go through change. To make sure that those changes are given the highest chance for success, consider being disciplined enough to pick one thing for them to focus on at any given time.
Pick one big organizational change or system change or process change at a time. Bring people through the change process with you. Do the change with them instead of to them, and then let it sink in for a while. Let them adjust, let them build new routines, let them incorporate that one change into their daily work before implementing the next one. This helps put them in a state of evolution instead of revolution.
Evolution is a slower and more methodical approach to implementing change, but I would argue one that is far more successful in the long run. It’s the story of the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race. Revolution tends to disrupt too many things in a person’s routine and processes, requiring them to have to focus on too many adjustments and adaptations at one time. If you can pick one thing, and let them get comfortable and good at that, then the next change won't feel so mighty.
Breaking down the changes into smaller more incremental steps and letting people get comfortable with that one change allows them to get into a routine of embracing and implementing changes on a more rapid basis. Primarily because the change wasn’t too exhausting and time-consuming in single focus mode. As you can see, doing it this way allows for an organization to implement more changes over a period of time versus trying to implement all the changes all at once and ultimately spending a lot more time on the fallout from pushing people so far beyond their comfort zone and routines.
In my ordinary life example, it was easy to see that allowing my son to focus on one thing at a time would highly improve the likelihood of his success in that first year in the new program. And it worked amazingly well and I’m regularly reminded that we made the right decision.
Think about how you can help people through change and more effectively embrace change yourself. What can you do to focus on one thing and help everyone come out on the other side happier, more nimble and flexible for the next change?
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