All you can eat. Unlimited choices. Endless possibilities.

Abundance is appealing. But, honestly, there is such a thing as too much, especially at work.

Leaders — it’s time to step away from the buffet.

“Stop heaping more change initiatives and improvement projects on your plate,” says CCL’s Bill Pasmore. “You — and your company — can’t take it, and they are not doing you any good.”

Inability to focus and prioritize is one reason strategies falter, explains Pasmore in a new book, Leading Continuous Change: Navigating Churn in the Real World.

“Leaders know they need to prioritize,” says Pasmore. “In a recent CCL survey, 76% of senior leaders said prioritization is very important — but only 10 percent say they are very effective in doing it. That means 66% of us should be doing something really different.”

Typically, our overwhelming need to respond to threats and opportunities forces us into immediate action, even if not well-conceived. We try to do too much at once without a coherent plan. We don’t think about how Change A affects Change B and how both changes work against Change C. We confuse activity with progress. We trust our intuition instead of stepping back to develop a better-informed plan of attack.

Get on Top of Change

Instead of all this busyness, we should get on top of things, decide what’s really important, and do those things well.

Change is no longer a single event to map out and go through, in spite of all the popular models that lead us to think that way. In most organizations today, it’s complex and continuous.

To succeed at complex, continuous change, a rigorous approach is needed — probably a more rigorous approach than you are used to. You’ll want to adopt specific tools, mindsets, and even structures that enable you to achieve repeatable success when leading complex, continuous changes. There is no simple solution to make these challenges go away — you need to learn and practice some new skills.

If nothing else, you need to slow down.

how-to-succeed-at-complex-change-infographic

Pause to discover what is really going on before you leap to the next change opportunity and then the next. Do the pre-work that is necessary to manage changes as a complex, interconnected series of processes.

Pause to decide which of many opportunities are most important to do well. Make tough choices among attractive options. Trying to do everything is a recipe for failure.

Pause to plan how you will go about change and who needs to be engaged for it to be done well and quickly. Sure, push the envelope, but don’t expect your approach to work as planned. Monitor progress, work through organizational and individual lack of readiness, and invest in the creation of greater change capacity.

Pause to reflect on what you’ve learned and put in place stronger processes and structures to help you do all of these things better in the future. Take time to see things in perspective, bringing people together frequently to make certain they’re aligned.

All along the way, don’t divert your attention until you have either accomplished your objectives or reset your goals to address more-urgent needs.

“Stepping away from the buffet” is not easy, but it is certainly doable, Pasmore says. The more rigorous thinking you do, the more you will change the way you approach challenges and opportunities. And in the end, you’ll be much more satisfied.

5 thoughts on “How to Succeed at Complex, Continuous Change

  1. Jen McGahan says:

    I agree about slowing down and pausing before reacting. Every time I dart off in the direction of some attractive option or idea, I am always — always! — overwhelmed very soon by the consequences of this thrilling new plan. I have learned to wait for multiple signs pointing me in a new direction and to focus on what I already do well. Great article!

  2. Jen McGahan says:

    I agree about slowing down and pausing before reacting. Every time I dart off in the direction of some attractive option or idea, I am always — always! — overwhelmed very soon by the consequences of this thrilling new plan. I have learned to wait for multiple signs pointing me in a new direction and to focus on what I already do well. Great article!

  3. Linda says:

    Fully agree. Change is the easist thing to be chosen in response to the presssure for underperforming or tough situation. Leaders need to careful to support quick change ideas that often turns out a bet instead of a feasible action plan.

  4. Linda says:

    Fully agree. Change is the easist thing to be chosen in response to the presssure for underperforming or tough situation. Leaders need to careful to support quick change ideas that often turns out a bet instead of a feasible action plan.

  5. ashok Kumar koul says:

    To overcome the threat perception the change in plans is a requisite for the leaders because that can offset the affects of threat. It can prove a gamble also either in favour or against the decision maker . It is learnt that during World War II when German army was less than 50 kms from Moscow, although most of the Russian government shifted to Volga , butJoseph Stalin preferred to stay in the capital and frustrated the German forces. Which eventually went towards Ukraine to control Oil filelds, but snowfall cut off the supplies to Germans and were totally repulsed.

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