February 2013 | Nano Tools | Leadership
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributor: Greg Shea, Adjunct Professor of Management, Faculty Associate, Center for Leadership and Change Management, The Wharton School; and Cassie Solomon, President and Founder, The New Group Consulting, Inc.
Ensure your next change initiative is a success by envisioning the behaviors needed to implement it.
Leading successful change initiatives is an essential skill in today’s “perpetual whitewater” business environment. Yet nine studies done between 1994 and 2010 report that 50 to 75 percent of all change initiatives fail. Behind such failures you’ll often find a missing ingredient — one that may seem obvious in retrospect, but that many change leaders overlook — a clear, specific vision of the desired end-state.
What does success look like? And even more important, what are your people doing to create and sustain it? The odds of success decline if you don’t have a clear picture. Imagine a team of rowers without a clear goal on the horizon. You can encourage them to row, and they may even row with vigor, but if they are confused about where they are heading their efforts will likely produce only exhaustion and disillusionment.
To avoid this trap, you can become a “script writer” for change. The scripting process is similar to writing a movie script. You describe a scene that clearly depicts the ideal future of your organization, including the specific behaviors of the people involved in the new scenario. This scene forms the blueprint for building the new work environment, and provides a map that can guide others in implementing the organizational change. The scripting approach has been used successfully for over two decades in a range of industries — from manufacturing to telecom, financial services to government. As you adapt it to your change initiative, there are two principles to bear in mind. First, your scene should be far enough into the future to decouple yourself from the major constraints of the moment. For executives, that usually means five to ten years; for managers, two to four years. Second, assume the world you desire has already arrived. Starting at a specific successful moment in the future and working back to the present produces more creative and more specific thinking than does starting with the present and trying to envision forward. Working backwards allows people to think, even dream, more freely and to make the as yet unrealized more concrete.
The following steps, as illustrated in the two business examples described above, will help you and your team envision your desired future and identify the behaviors that define it.
Articulate the what, why, and who of the change. Boldly imagine your organization, and those who work in it, after you’ve achieved the change you want to create. Why is it important? If you can’t state an end purpose in a simple sentence or two, then you’re not ready to imagine what it could look like when it’s achieved.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, Director of Innovative Learning Solutions at Wharton Executive Education. It is jointly sponsored by Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, Wharton Professor of Management Michael Useem, Director. Nano Tools Academic Director, Professor Adam Grant.
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