Change in Four Steps: How to Make Effective Changes at Work
I know I want to change ... Yet, every time I set a goal and decide to change, I seem to get sidetracked or lose sight of the end point. It never seems to work out as I planned.
How can you effectively make a change? You know how to set goals. You even have a framework for this: SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Tangible. So you set up your goals using this framework. You get specific and say that you want to become better at participating in team meetings so you can have more influence in decisions. You set up a measurable outcome by saying that you will have your ideas adopted in an upcoming meeting. You see this as attainable; you know your ideas are good. It is a realistic goal and there will be tangible benefits for you and your team when it happens.
So where is the problem? Why is this the third time you have set this goal? It could be that you have no plan for accomplishing this change. No idea how to become more effective in meetings. No idea how to influence others in a group setting. And no ways to determine if you are even doing the things you are trying to do effectively. So how can you expect to accomplish this without a new approach? You can't.
You can't that is without a plan. Just like you need a plan or framework to be able to set goals, you need a framework for accomplishing those goals. Just setting a goal never accomplishes anything. You have to take action. Yet that action needs a direction and its own plan to become reality.
Making Change Happen: A Plan for Change
The steps are easy.
First you need to discover what you need to know. Do you need a book or a course? Do you need a mentor or coach? Do you need to talk with peers? Are there tools available that would help? Whatever is needed must be identified and found. In the case above you might need a coach to help identify effective ways to interact in groups and it may be helpful to read about communication skills. (There may be other things needed depending upon the particular circumstances, these are offered only as an illustration.)
The second step is to put the information, tools or learning into action. You need to test the new ideas. This step is all about practice. It is now time to take your new game on the road. In this case you become more interactive in the meeting; you present your ideas and propose solutions.
The third step is all about feedback. Without feedback you will not know how your performance went. Feedback is your measurement of results. Part of the feedback will be a self-assessment of the results. You will review the actual result of the practice – the action taken. In this case you will assess your results in terms of ideas presented, ideas accepted and implemented. Another part of the feedback can include a discussion with a coach that reviews the actions taken and the results obtained. In the case we are following, a possibility is to talk with a colleague prior to the meeting and ask that person to pay attention to what you will be doing differently in the meeting and then debrief with them at the end of the meeting.
The fourth step is to use the feedback information to determine if you need to go back to steps one or two or if the desired results have been obtained and you can check the completed box next to this goal. If you need more practice, go back to step two and practice until you get the desired result. If more information or tools are needed, go back to step one and start there again.
- Get the needed information or tools.
- Put this into action – Practice the new techniques.
- Get feedback about results.
- Make corrections, get new information, practice more, or obtain the desired results and call the goal complete!
Use these steps for any kind of change. The example was of a behavioral change; however this same framework or set of steps will work with any kind of personal change. If you wanted to become more strategic you could first find a mentor, and then start practicing the advice obtained from that person. You would then assess the results yourself and consult with your mentor for their feedback. Based on these assessments you would then get more mentoring, practice the advice more or declare your self a strategy guru.
So pick a goal and getting going. One, Two, Three, Four – Finished!
Fritz M. Brunner, Ph.D. is a coach and consultant engaged in working with people wanting to excel in life and business. Please visit his web site at www.fmbrunner.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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For practical help with your change program, check out our resource kit, Managing Change in the Workplace. Its tools, exercises, techniques and tips cover every aspect of managing change. Visit the Managing Change in the Workplace information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using this practical change management guide and workbook today.