Codifying Change and Success

I have recently had reason to apply much of what I have learnt in my business life to my personal life. Without going into too much detail it occurred after a trip to the doctor where he told me I had type 2 diabetes. Initially I was devastated and went into a personal pity party. After a few days however I began to think about what can I do about this as I am committed to living a long and healthy life.

As I thought about this it occurred to me that the principles that underpinned successful organisational change were likely to be just as relevant for me as a person. As it happens, I know a fair bit about change as I have spent most of my career running change programs either as a consultant to large organisations or as an executive to the leading teams within organisations. The irony is that although I may know a fair bit about change, I discovered that that knowledge has always been unstructured and intuitive. This meant it was difficult to pull it out of the business context and apply it to myself. So I set about structuring what I knew and came up with the following:



A quick explanation:

Start with purpose or as Simon Sinek coaches, start with why. People will work harder and offer more of themselves if they understand and believe that what they are doing is important and contributing to something bigger than themselves. A clear sense of purpose or vision provides this background for effectiveness.

Purpose and vision are fantastic and absolutely needed, however, they are not enough. You also need a way to measure and monitor the progress you are making towards your goal. Air travel is a good analogy here. While you need to know your destination, the purpose or goal of the flight, you also need constant feedback to let you know where you are in relation to the goal and be able to make whatever corrections are needed along the flight. Your success measures are effectively predefined by a combination of the purpose / vision and the dynamics which you are looking to harness to achieve that success (see below).

Understand underlying dynamics. In defining your strategy and approach, focus on the underlying dynamics at play and then plan to use those dynamics to your advantage. As I have written in the past (read here) I am fundamentally lazy and as a lazy person I always try and find the easiest way to achieve a result. That easiest way almost always involves seeking to understand what is really going on behind the scenes and then using those dynamics to your advantage rather than pushing against them.

Act on the plan. Over time I have learnt that for a plan to be effective you have to live in the world of the doable, or as I like to say, focus on next practice not best practice. As a consultant, I lived and breathed best practice. All my clients had to do was implement best practice and they would reap the promised rewards and benefits. As a CIO, however, I began to realise that knowing best practices and successfully implementing them were two completely different things. Often best practices are simply not achievable given the current level of maturity of the organisation, it’s like trying to get a fat man to run a marathon.

Learn, celebrate and correct. Having set off on the journey to meet your goal things are going to happen. Some of those are going to be good things, some not so good. Whatever happens, channel it into a process of evaluation and learning rather than a self assessment of yourself as being brilliant or a failure. If what you did worked can it be systematised and repeated? If it didn’t work, why not and what is a logical next action to take?

So there it is, a model for change and success that can be applied in many different circumstances including personal and organisational change on virtually any scale.


By: Owen McCall

First published on www.istart.co.nz

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