By Attila Ovari
There is a lot of material on change management and how the only constant in the world is change itself. This focus on change and change management can make us think that change is what we should be aiming for.
But do we have it all wrong? Should we be talking about change or about how we are going to move forward?
Do not get me wrong. I do believe that we are living in a world that is very much changing and changing at a faster and faster pace. This is certainly a factor that we need to consider in our actions in moving forward. However I think that the focus needs to be on what we want to achieve and what the future will look like.
I have experienced moving forward over the last couple of years in my role in the Australian Army Reserve. At the beginning of 2011 I was posted into my current role as Officer Commanding 4 Combat Engineer Squadron. The squadron was operating at a good level and was meeting required outcomes. There was no need for change per say. After a conference with my senior staff we concluded that there were areas that we could improve in.
Without going into the full details, we analysed our mission, the upcoming structural changes to Reserve Engineers and our likely future tasks. We then developed a staged plan to evolve into the squadron that will be required for the future. This vision has placed us ahead of the change cycle that the Army Reserve is currently experiencing.
The changes were not all made at the same time. However during the process we didn’t focus on change, but on what we wanted to become as a Squadron and why? The why was very much an operational focus for our likely future tasks. We developed a simple sense of purpose being “providing a deployable Troop and a deployable Squadron Headquarters”. Though simple this sense of purpose enabled us to sharpen our training program, reorganise our equipment & stores and develop our standing operating procedures.
The outcomes of this sense of purpose, has been that the Squadron has changed. The change was not because we focused on change, but more on where we needed to be (moving forward). The changes have not been what everyone wanted and through using a moving forward approach we have been able to make sure that everyone has at least been aware of why. As I review the last couple of years in command of the Squadron, I am proud of what has been achieved.
So what are the lessons that we can all apply in our work places? Here are the key steps that we can take on board.
- Step 1: Develop what it is that you want to become. This is not what you want to achieve, this is what value add you will make to your area of influence. Review your mission, your stakeholders expectations and your vision for the future. Work with your team on this process.
- Step 2: Develop an easy to understand sense of purpose for the organisation. In step 1 you discover who as an organisation you want to be; in step 2 you are focusing on what this means. What is the sense of purpose that you want each member of your organisation to focus on? Ensure that this is an easy to understand purpose statement.
- Step 3: Develop a plan to move forward towards your organisational purpose. Involve your team and other stakeholders in this process. The more involvement and ownership over the plan that you can empower on your stakeholders, the more likely they are going to move forward with the same sense of purpose as you.
- Step 4: Monitor your progress. Take the time to step back from the day to day activities to make sure that you are heading towards your desired sense of purpose. It can be easy at times to get distracted by the day to day stuff and go off course. Ensure that key decision points are selected to review your progress and direction.
- Step 5: Adjust your plan. As you carry out your plan it is the purpose that is important, not the plan. If you need to adjust the plan to meet your purpose, then adjust it, not your purpose.
- Step 6: Review and Celebrate. As you progress forward, you will consistently review want you want to become and also your sense of purpose. However as you review these things, remember to acknowledge and celebrate with your team and stakeholders the ground you have gained.
So here’s a challenge for us all – think about moving forward, and not change management. Through a focus on a sense of purpose we can transform our organisation into the organisation we want it to become.