In his book, Change is Like a Slinky, Hans Finzel draws comparisons between the process of handling change and, of course, the popular toy, the Slinky. He says, after all, that you have to take out of the box to have fun, it comes in many styles, somebody has to launch it, its course is unpredictable, it gets stuck and has to be relaunched, it is noisy and chaotic, its potential energy becomes kinetic, you don’t get to control it, and it rarely lands where you predict! He provides some keys to managing change that are useful in just about any context and categorises these under six main components of change: accept; aim; anticipate; attack; adjust; and align.
1 Accept. Change is our contemporary challenge and we must accept that it is inevitable. Changing our own small world in response to change in the wider world is critical to relevance and viability. Being flexible to adjust accordingly, but then doing so in what becomes a series of ongoing changes, requires us to think differently. This is not just true for leaders, as anyone can be a change agent; you don’t need to leave a place unless there has been a compromise of integrity, the frustrations outweigh the opportunities for change, or you have (rightly or wrongly) been embodied as ‘the problem’. Of course, we don’t just need to change things as if to believe that the passage of time warrants it. We keep true to our core values and honour our foundations since we all need anchors. But we also need to help others to discern what needs to change and to then bring an emotional buy-in to embrace it, building well upon the past and adjusting the sail to the right winds so as to move forward healthily.
2. Aim. We can’t be so far out in front of the troops as to be mistaken for the enemy and shot in the back. The best organisations are led by people who are committed to great goals not just visionary leaders. We need to develop change thinking with teams, where we research it well and process it with the right people. Then, reflect helps to refine (Peter Drucker says that leaders should spend 10-25% of their time staring out of the window). Vision and mission must be shared with others to have join ownership of a preferred future of where we all know we need to go. Meandering ‘idea pathways’ don’t just intertwine but inform each other and often it takes creativity to see the right links within complex organisations, which is why creativity needs to be rewarded and encouraged. It is important to discard ingrained views and adapt quickly.
Finally, Finzel quotes John Kotter from a Harvard publication, saying that we ‘aim’ to lead change by: establishing a sense of urgency; creating a guiding coalition; developing shared vision & strategy; communicating the change vision; empowering action; generating short-term wins; consolidate gains to then produce more change; and anchoring new approaches in the culture.