The Trajectory of Change

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on leading change at AgileTourRTP. The presentation is now available on SlideShare here. You can view it right here also.

Change is an emotional journey, for the change agent, as well as the colleagues you lead through change. Understanding the emotional arcs or trajectories that you will personally experience, as well as the emotions of others provides you with tools to lead change more effectively. The presentation has three parts:

  • Context – the business in which I work and the challenges of Wireless Telecom.
  • Experiences with Change – what I have personally witnessed as a change agent in our business, going from traditional to Agile.
  • The change models that can help you understand what to expect in terms of both emotions, action and performance.

There is also a caution here. Emotional responses can be unexpected. Being open and aware and not relying on cookie-cutter change formulas gives you a better chance of success. Given that two-thirds of all change initiatives fail to deliver on their promise, it is wise to carefully observe how emotion is playing out in your context, on an individual as well as organizational level.

Change only occurs when individuals see the value of it, can visualize a better future, and can see a personal cost/benefit trade-off that makes the journey worthwhile. Resistance to change is human nature. Change violates the equilibrium and status quo. Individuals and organizations are invested both financially and emotionally in the status quo. It provides a sense of identity and belonging. Influencing people to “leave home” and venture into the unknown requires care, a support system, and compassion. The journey is difficult and loaded with unseen obstacles.

The key to successful change lies in creating conditions where emotions are tied to focus, thus creating engagement. Ask yourself:

  • How do I personally feel about change?
  • Can my colleagues articulate the vision in their own language, in their own personal context?
  • Is the value of change clear and does it feel within reach?
  • Am I using more than rational explanations to describe the future? Am I tapping into how the new world will feel?
  • Have I created a support system that my colleagues can leverage to air their concerns and issues in an open and safe environment?
  • Am I championing those who take the leap?
  • Am I helping those who fail to try again, with compassion?
  • Am I providing “air cover” for those that venture out into the unknown?
  • Am I filtering the noise and turbulence so people can focus?

Change is hard. Think about the rational argument of more exercise and better eating habits to lose weight. We know it’s the best way to shed unwanted pounds. But without focus, emotional engagement, and a support system, change can fail.

AgileTour 2010 – Take Part

AgileTour is fast approaching. The tour is made up of one-day events in cities around the world. There is likely an AgileTour near you. You can find out about the different events here. This year I will be speaking at AgileTour in RTP, near Raleigh, NC. My topic is the Trajectory of Change. This year’s speaker’s line-up is awesome and I am privileged to be among this group of professionals. The RTP AgileTour can be found at: Check out the Tour and take part!