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How to Herd Cats… When You’re a Mouse

14 Feb

Bringing about change in an entire organization is a bit like trying to herd cats… when you’re a mouse.

Not only is it just plain difficult to get everyone moving in the same direction… but at any moment, someone could turn around and bite your head off!

(Or if they’re like my old cat, give you a few swipes and then “play” with you a bit… cruel, I know…)

So how do you do it?   

How do you change things… from how promotions are awarded… to the policy on leave entitlements… to the structure of the organization… to the overall morale of the staff… to anything?

After all, you may be a small “cog” in a very large wheel with very little apparent influence… or, even if you’re part of senior management, you may feel that you won’t get buy-in from the majority of staff.

Well, here are four (4) steps I suggest you take to bring about organizational change:

1. First of all, realize this:

Almost nobody does anything – including embracing change – unless they wholeheartedly believe (at both a logical and emotional level) that the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs… for them!

So, if you’re going to convince anyone to act differently, you must sell them on WHY they should do so. At both an emotional, as well as logical or rational level. And by the way, when I say “emotional” I DON’T mean being all soft and mushy – I just mean you need to appeal to the feelings that will drive people to act.

Also, consider that different reasons will appeal to different people.

For example, several years ago, the law firm I worked with (one of the biggest commercial law firms in Australia) introduced a number of initiatives to give staff more “flexible work” options, like receiving a reduced salary in return for more annual leave.

To the staff lawyers – many of whom were on relatively high salaries yet working horrendous hours – this meant a little less pay for a lot MORE TIME OFF. To them TIME was the biggest appeal.

To the partners who introduced the initiative, it meant happier staff… which translated to LOWER STAFF TURNOVER…. and in turn, lower staff costs. So LOWER COSTS was the major attraction.

Presumably, whoever sold the partners and the lawyers on the flexible work idea appealed to them in these different ways in order to garner their support.

2. Work out what it’s going to take to bring about the change.

Both in terms of what YOU will have to do… and what others will have to do.

Identify your end-goal and work back from there, identifying the what, who, when, where and how of what needs to happen to bring about the change you want.

Eventually, you’ll come back to YOU, and what you’ll need to do to get the ball rolling. Which brings us to the next step…

3. Determine whether trying to bring about the change is worth all the effort!

Notice I said “trying”. Now I don’t like the word “trying” very much, but I’ve used it here for an important reason. I specifically want you to think about whether the cost to you, personally, of instigating the change you want is worth it… if you DON’T succeed.

You see, depending on the organization and the change you’re trying to achieve, there will be a LOT of variables outside of your control… and the change you seek may not happen.

This doesn’t mean that all your efforts will be in vain – you may accomplish something else instead – but you need to consider all the possible outcomes (as well as accepting that you won’t be able to foresee them all) and decide whether you’re still willing to pursue that change.

To the staff lawyers – many of whom were on relatively high salaries yet working horrendous hours – this meant a little less pay for a lot MORE TIME OFF. To them TIME was the biggest appeal.

To the partners who introduced the initiative, it meant happier staff… which translated to LOWER STAFF TURNOVER…. and in turn, lower staff costs. So LOWER COSTS was the major attraction.

Presumably, whoever sold the partners and the lawyers on the flexible work idea appealed to them in these different ways in order to garner their support.

2. Work out what it’s going to take to bring about the change.

Both in terms of what YOU will have to do… and what others will have to do.

Identify your end-goal and work back from there, identifying the what, who, when, where and how of what needs to happen to bring about the change you want.

Eventually, you’ll come back to YOU, and what you’ll need to do to get the ball rolling. Which brings us to the next step…

3. Determine whether trying to bring about the change is worth all the effort!

Notice I said “trying”. Now I don’t like the word “trying” very much, but I’ve used it here for an important reason. I specifically want you to think about whether the cost to you, personally, of instigating the change you want is worth it… if you DON’T succeed.

You see, depending on the organization and the change you’re trying to achieve, there will be a LOT of variables outside of your control… and the change you seek may not happen.

This doesn’t mean that all your efforts will be in vain – you may accomplish something else instead – but you need to consider all the possible outcomes (as well as accepting that you won’t be able to foresee them all) and decide whether you’re still willing to pursue that change.

4. Start with the first step

If you’re confident you can persuade people to embrace the change (step 1), have mapped out what needs to happen to achieve it (step 2) and decided that it’s worth it to go ahead (step 3) then the final step is… get started.

And this is where you take the “first step” towards bringing about the desired change.

And that means taking ONE step and one step only.

You see, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, it could very easily become overwhelming.

But as the Chinese proverb goes:

“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step”

So don’t try to do everything at once. Just focus on one step at a time. When that’s done, move onto the next, and so on.

You may be attempting something as massive as bringing about widespread cultural change and boosting morale in a large company that’s just undergone a merger or restructuring… but it still begins with YOU taking ONE step.

Like speaking to a key manager. Or writing an email. Or speaking up at a staff meeting.

Work towards your goal, step by step, and you’ll certainly achieve it faster than if you let it overwhelm and stall you!

But… can a single person really bring about major organizational change?

Yes and no.

Yes, one person can get the ball rolling… but no, no single person can change an entire organization. By definition, the organization – which means most, if not everyone, in it – must also embrace the change.

Much work may need to be done. But the key to achieving the change starts with understanding and persuading people that the change you want is WORTH IT to THEM. And then doing what it takes – step by step – to making it happen.

=== by Anna Johnson, Success Accelerator ===

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6 Comments

Posted by on February 14, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

6 responses to “How to Herd Cats… When You’re a Mouse

  1. mkrules

    February 19, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Yes it is hard, but to me, if you really believe that you can encourage change and it is important to you, it is very worth it.

     
  2. crystalreflections

    February 20, 2007 at 9:59 am

    I totally agree. You don’t know how many people you have encouraged, mkrules, and I am sure there are a lot out there. I am one of them. Thank you for making a difference.

     
  3. mkrules

    February 21, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Crystal, thank you for being so kind and I hope you know that your blog is inspiring too. It is not easy to find positivity and stay focused on it but you do a great job with that!

     
  4. crystalreflections

    February 21, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Thanks!

     
  5. colleen

    March 20, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Wow this blog is so positive and its great to see good people here!

     
  6. crystalreflections

    March 21, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Colleen! This is my therapy. 😉
    This blog has helped me stay positive. And if in the process, I have helped some people, then those are just extra. Thanks for visiting and come back often.

     

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