“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s statement is so telling. Think of this in the context of setting goals or achieving success. If you do not set goals for yourself, your work or business, you probably meander through life believing the outcomes of your actions are your destiny. For some they achieve success and have no regrets. More often than not, people look back and wish they would have made a different decision.

Have you ever had someone suggest a change or offer to teach you something new they believe will help you ? Did you jump at the chance or pass the offer by? Did you take the necessary steps to embrace that new way or just go back to your old way because it was faster, easier, cheaper?

Businesses frequently fail to embrace a culture of change and innovation. This culture instils stagnation and can attract employees who are not inspired to be innovative or willing to move forward.  Businesses will lose innovative employees if they are unable to support new ideas and they can easily get left behind the competition, particularly in tough times. When business owners, managers and individuals alike to embrace life-long learning, they remain open to new opportunities, new methods of doing business and the successes that can follow.  Learning and implementing something new can be challenging and may take longer than the “old” way, but if implemented for the right reasons with a clear plan and good supports, any hurdles can be overcome.

If you want to make a change, take the time to plan. Ninety percent of your time and effort should be applied to the planning stages and ten percent to implementation. Create a vision of what change initiative is needed and set measureable goals and realistic timelines. Establish the steps/tasks that need to be taken, identify who will do each task, how the steps/tasks will be communicated with everyone who will be affected (even if only minimally affected) and how progress will be monitored and alternations made.   Communicate frequently and be prepared to listen… new ideas and solutions can be borne from feedback! Incorporating this feedback will increase “buy-in” and enhance the projects success.

If you don’t have time to manage the entire process on your own, don’t hesitate to enlist some help. Work with a consultant or business coach who is dedicated to ensuring your success and can help keep you focused or provide a different perspective throughout the process.  A change management consultant can work with you and your team, facilitate group sessions, manage the project, initiate training or help complete tasks.

Embrace change, set your goals, take the time to plan, communicate frequently during the change initiative process , welcome feedback and adjust your plan when necessary as you move forward and enjoy your success!

Is the “optimism bias” affecting your business?

Earlier today I read a report featured in the USA Today weather blog(http://blogs.usatoday.com/weather/2009/03/deathwish-why.html) on why people ignore severe weather warnings.    According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report, this occurs due to “optimism bias” — “the belief that bad things happen only to other people.”  They cite the presence of a number of barriers that deter people from “risk-adverse decisions”.

It’s an interesting concept… and one not restricted to weather warnings.  Living in Vancouver, we are repeatedly reminded to prepare for “the big one” (an earthquake), but how many people and businesses have taken the necessary steps… not enough!  Optimism bias — it won’t happen in my lifetime! I’m not so sure and I have taken steps to prepare – admittedly I still have more to do to complete my own plan.

Does optimism bias exist in change management? I contend it does.  We all know our world is constantly changing and whether we are entrepreneurs, managers, employees, or just members of society, thinking things will be ok if we “stay the course”, “do what we’ve always done” has a similar effect as failing to prepare for a weather warning — things will change and you will get left behind, causing you to become inefficient, unprofitable or out of business.

The key to adapting to change successfully is to take some time to develop a clear plan.  Planning may involve brainstorming  options & ideas with others, educating yourself (or better yet keeping abreast whenever you can) about the changes in your field, technology, your target market etc. and what changes your competitors are making that could impact your business.  Once you have this information you need to identify what actions you will implement and what your desired end result is.  Your action plan should outline what you are going to do to achieve your goal.   It may include learning new skills/up-grading your skills (or those of your employees) or hiring an external consultant.  Establishing a clear communications plan is vital to ensure all key personnel who will be impacted by the changes you are planning are aware of what’s going to happen, who’s involved, why its happening and how it will occur.  Start this communications plan right away and deal with the resistance you face in a sincere, transparent way.  This approach will garner support and understanding, and it can add depth to your change initiatives.

Don’t let the optimism bias cause you to be left behind.  Thinking that things will be ok isn’t enough!   Instead, establish a regular business review, plan for changes, adjust as needed and be optimistic that your change action plan will help you take the necessary steps to be the success you wish to be.   The current economic environment is a presenting each of us with a unique opportunity to revisit our current situation, create a plan and take the steps to move us forward.

Trying something new

Change… such a simple word for a complex set of events and emotions. Some of us enjoy the adventures that come with change, others want a stable routine and resist the transition (good or bad) while others just ride the wave. How do you accept change?

I realized my passion for assisting others through change about 2 years ago when re-examining my own career path and what I wanted in my future. Since that time I have been involved in leading numerous change initiatives — changes in organizations I was working with, as well as undertaking my own significant changes. Although I enjoy change and the opportunities and variety, there are times it would be nice for some things to remain the same… I have to admit I want stability when I’m in a hurry and do not want to think too hard about what I’m doing.

This is my first entry into the world of blogging — part of my own personal change initiatives. I welcome your thoughts and questions about change, and other topics we will explore in the coming weeks.

Be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

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