How can you prepare for the journey when you haven’t yet planned it?
The truth is, you can’t…at least not fully.
At the same time, if you begin by planning, it’s likely that the only things you will prepare for are what you have planned…and I have seen that have disastrous results. Preparation and planning are highly intertwined; my recommendation is to always start with some very specific elements of preparation. Then when you get into the planning (which we will discuss next week), it becomes a much more effective process.
Inventory Your Anchors
Change is disruptive. Big change is highly disruptive. We all know this, yet we often fail to consciously use anchors to manage the disruption. An anchor is anything that helps to provide stability and direction. It may be an individual’s moral compass, or an organization’s values. It may be money; or reputation; or title; or family, friends, or community. It may be religion or a spiritual practice. It may be a home, a car, or other possessions. It may be a commitment: to have a family, to earn a professional degree, to not work evenings or weekends. It may be an organization’s compensation structure.
It is likely that if you are approaching a major change, you will need to completely let go of some anchors, and you will need to change your relationship to others. For example, your decision to change careers may require you to earn a professional degree…one of your anchors. And, when you begin to think about how to do that, you may realize that your commitment to “not work evenings or weekends” will prevent you from doing so.
Down the road, it will also be important to know what anchors are unwavering; which ones you and others around you (whether family and friends or colleagues) can count on to hold you steady during the turbulence.
So, the first thing that I recommend my clients do in preparing, whether as an individual or an organization, is to inventory their anchors. This is not the time to decide what to do with them; it is the time to become attentive to what they are.
Inventory the Changes
A big change isn’t one change…it is tens, or dozens, or even hundreds of smaller changes. Planning the change will be a lot more successful if you know what those smaller changes are.
Don’t make this a “count the grains of sand on the beach” exercise, dissecting each change into smaller and smaller components. (This is a particularly challenging thing to avoid for those who are into “dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t.'”) Continuing with the earlier example, two changes may be: make the appropriate adjustments to my anchor regarding evenings and weekends and earn a professional degree.
Later you will get into the planning of how to make each of these changes. For now, what you want is an inventory of them.
Inventory Your Resources: What You Need and What You Have
With an understanding of the changes that you need to make, you have a deeper insight into the resources required to make them. They might involve specific time commitments (both time invested and elapsed time should be considered). You may need other people’s engagement. Certain knowledge and/or skill sets may be required. Virtually every large-scale change demands a financial investment. Technology may be essential to moving forward. Their may be real estate, equipment, and any number of other resources required. Create your “resources needed inventory” first.
With that inventory in hand, determine what resources you have, and what the gaps are. Filling in the gaps–or adjusting the change so that you don’t have to–will have to be planned for.
Establish your Milestones
There’s one more set of things that I like to have in place prior to beginning the planning: milestones.
We’ve talked before about the difference between installation (putting things in place) and realization (achieving the desired outcomes); installation is necessary, but it is not sufficient.
The tendency in planning is to plan for installation, as if realization will magically occur. I can tell you with certainty, if your change is big and your sole focus is on installation, you will never achieve realization. For this reason, it is essential that you establish both installation and realization milestones. Returning one more time to the earlier example, enroll in my first professional course may be an installation milestone; it is a key indicator that you are making progress on earning the professional degree. A realization milestone might be to complete a weekend of coursework without having any negative feelings; reaching this milestone would signify an important realignment with your old anchor of not working evenings and weekends.
You now have your change story, a clear and compelling picture of your destination and how you will get there. You have an inventory of your anchors, those things that ground and orient you. You know the changes you will need to make in order to complete the journey. You have identified the resources you need, the resources you have, and the resource gaps. And, finally, you’ve identified key milestones both in terms of putting things in place, and in terms of achieving your destination. Preparation will continue to weave in and out during your planning and travels. In the meantime, you are ready to start your planning. We’ll cover this element of the change journey next week.
(NOTE: This is the second of a five-part series introducing the overall change journey.)
What are your thoughts on preparing for a major change? Other than one of scope, is it different at the organizational level than it is at the personal? Comment below.