This One Thing Will Make Change Easier

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I just had a client for an upcoming keynote speech tell me, “We’re going through a lot of change right now.”

YOU: “Oh my God, he’s talking about my organization! We’re going through a lot of change right now!”

Okay, before you get too excited [YOU: “Too late!”], you should know that I hear this from nearly every client. I conducted an informal survey (translation: I was still in my pajamas when I made the calls) of some of my fellow motivational speakers, and they said the same thing.

It seems that everyone is going through change, and everyone is struggling with it.

Let’s just call it like it is, okay? Change is messy. Things are different, nobody quite knows how it’s going to turn out, everybody wishes things could just go back to the way they were before.

If this sounds like your team, there’s one vital thing that you need. And you can’t just wait or hope for it. You need to proactively plan for it. What is this one thing?

You need a short-term win.

You need an early win to show your team that this change is working, and that it’s worthwhile.

motivational speaker Bill StaintonHow early should this win occur? Well, a typical timeline for a successful major corporate change is seven years. Yes, you read that correctly. It takes roughly seven years for a major change to become truly integrated into a corporate culture. (Incidentally, most companies give up long before seven years, which is why most corporate change initiatives ultimately fail). Given this seven year timeline, your team needs to experience a win within 12 to 24 months. (If you’re going through a more minor change, adjust accordingly.)

This win could be a successful new product launch, the landing of a major new customer, a marked and measurable improvement in productivity–virtually anything–as long as it’s clear and unambiguous and tied to the change initiative.

One Last Thing

And one last thing, as I mentioned before: it must be proactively planned for. It can’t be something that just fortuitously happens, or that you hope will happen. It has to be a win that you proactively create. 

One More Last Thing

Oh, and another thing. [YOU: “But said that that last thing was the last thing.” I know. I lied. Get over it.] This is an early win, not the ultimate victory. If you use this win to declare total victory, your team will breathe a collective sigh of relief, say “Thank goodness that’s over with,” and go back to business as usual, i.e., the way things were before. And you’ll wonder why your grand change initiative collapsed, just when things seemed to be going so well.

Change is messy. And it’s a much longer process than most leaders anticipate. But it’s necessary in order to stay competitive. So why not give yourself the best chance of success?

Plan for the early win.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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