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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Patient change

Real Change isn't easy, Mel Lester writes. Most successful consultants will describe how their clients are happy to pay for their services, but when it comes right down to the business of changing their practices, nothing happens.

Mel Lester
has written a great posting in his E-Quip Blog: The Hard Work of Real Change. He describes the frustrating reality of initiatives to improve/change business practices that fail on the hard rocks of reality -- initiatives which don't go anywhere, really, because managers and employees aren't ready to buy in to the hard work to really make the necessary changes.

Indeed, real change is hard -- it usually takes a life-threatening crisis or fundamentally critical circumstance to force the necessary revelations. People are looking for quick fixes, easy answers, fast and simple solutions, and these people are not just suckers for consumer scams, but business leaders who should know better!

Successful business consultants, in fact, complain about this frequently -- their clients pay for their services, and are happy enough to repeat and give the consultants even more money -- but when it comes right down to doing what needs be done, they don't. It almost is as if, as a client, by paying a consultant's fees, you are really changing, when in fact you are simply throwing away your money on a feel-good exercise.

If you are expecting a magical and fast solution to the questions/challenges in this blog, you will need to look elsewhere. Here are Mel Lester's conclusions:

So what should you take from this? First, set realistic expectations. If reaching your goals is important, consider how much effort is really needed. Then determine if you can commit that much time and attention to it. If not, scale back your goals. False ascents up the mountain of change not only fall short of the goal, but discourage people from committing to future change efforts.

Second, carefully budget time and attention. There's a limited supply. Firm leaders commonly over-commit then under-achieve when it comes to change. Manage change initiatives like projects, defining the tasks, manpower, time, and money needed to get the job done. Don't double-book. Whatever is committed to a specific change effort should be off-loaded somewhere else. Remember people are already suffering from mental overload. To keep the desired change at the forefront of their minds, you have to keep it constantly in the corporate conversation.

Finally, don't make promises you can't (or won't) keep. This is a matter of your integrity and credibility. Without it, you can never build the trust necessary to guide people through the transformation. In the end, trust is the bedrock on which sustained change must be built.

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