Identifying barriers as a way of building practical plans

Rosabeth Moss Kanter has such a fabulous way of saying things.  Her definition of insanity, “doing the same things over & over expecting different results,” is timeless and one that even our teenage daughter recites.  Her Change Master blog encouraging organizations to “dread” change is, again, bang on.  As she so rightly advises, “Get in touch with every negative aspect, all the things that could go wrong. Then figure out a way to get that negative force on your side. In short, “Dream your worst nightmare and invest in it.” In fact, identifying all the things that can go wrong allows you to build a practical implementation plan.

There’s a very old yet very useful tool for this that guides a group through the nightmare – or the potential barriers – to developing a plan that acknowledges & navigates potential landmines:

Vision: specify the changes you want in place – what’s going to be different in the future, whether that future is 3 months or 3 years away.

Barriers: ask everyone what hurdles & headaches they see preventing those changes from happening — “what’s giving you a pain in your stomach?” often gets very meaningful & honest responses

Influencing Factors: then have what may be a difficult but absolutely essential dialogue about which of those barriers you can actually do something about; which hurdles do you have some influence over? no influence over? or total influence over?  For example, how can you engage employees to help them see “what’s in it for them” to implement the changes? What relationships do you need to strengthen with key stakeholders, or vendors? etc.

Critical Success Factors: next, ask yourselves, what absolutely must be in place for us to realize what we’ve envisioned?

Strategies & Tactics: and, finally, match up those barriers that you can have some or total influence over with those factors critical to your success and build your plan.  That plan will be based on solving problems as you move forward, and knowing which problems you can turn away from, and which you need to stare down and do something about.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very optimistic person and believe in powerful, positive visions of what change can bring.  And it’s the optimists in the group who will realize that the barriers are quite manageable once they are acknowledged.  As Moss Kanter says in her book Confidence,“It appears that optimists are less afraid of their nightmares than pessimists. Pessimists are more likely to deny or avoid negative information. Optimists are more likely to look at the dark side, because they have the confidence to feel that they can do something about it.”