Formulate Change

Few people fight for change. You can win the fight.

In the great scheme of daily events, you can expect your people to fight against change. The bigger the change – unfamiliar, threatening, fraught with risk – the harder the fight. For companies unaccustomed to change, the call for innovation threatens the status quo. Whether people resist overtly or subversively, expect a fight.

Ampersand’s work over thirty years has identified four necessary ingredients to compel an organization to change: Angst, Vision, Belief, and Plan. Together they must overcome the perceived cost to Change. We call it AVBP. Think of it as a formula:

In this workshop, we work with leaders and teams to do the calculus for change in your organization.

We all overcome the inertia to change course when a growing ANGST becomes too obvious to ignore. When you can see the flames rising, the status quo shifts from safe to dangerous.

In this session we will develop your “burning platform”, and determine how to make it obvious to your people.Next we need a VISION—a contrasting picture of what good looks like. It doesn’t have to be rosy. It just has to be better than running in place. Individuals or small teams will construct their versions of the corporate vision to share among the group to construct the optimal message.ANGST+ VISION gets leaders talking. But for the folks in the trenches, A+V adds up to less than C. Too many leaders spout ambitious visions without matching words to wallets.Actions inspire BELIEF– the possibility that we might actually do as we say. If I see the right people doing the right things, I may eventually believe it’s safe to join them. With enough evidence I may even decide it’s more dangerous not to join them. That’s the tipping point. What evidence does your team need to see? Who needs to do what? Make it clear how leaders (including natural untitled leaders among the troops) need to act differently to inspire belief.Finally, to fully mobilize the troops, and align their actions, we all need a PLAN. What’s important? What comes first? What’s your job? What’s mine?The group will discuss past plans—what works, what doesn’t, in your culture. Then a planning activity will map out a path to show the way to the future. In our experience, a team who comes together in building the plan has already signed up for the journey.Add all those up, and if they exceed the perceived “cost to CHANGE”, your leaders and your teams are on their way to making big things happen, in lock step, a virtuous self-reinforcing cycle.We offer an additional module to leaders, HR executives and change agents who need to understand these dynamics a more specifically to lead change initiatives. These principles are demonstrated through the case examples of transformational leaders.

Lou Gerstner transformed collapsing hardware icon into a service giantAVBP as diagrammed below depicts the dynamic tension required to propel action:

.&AVBP diagram

Angst + Vision communicate best from the top. Belief + Plan apply at the individual, team and unit levels.On the left hemisphere, Angst + Plan “push” people to act. Angst produces fear and fear propels. Plans assign responsibility for clear actions with deadlines. Deadlines motivate.On the right side, Vision + Belief “pull” people to act. Vision paints a picture of a better destination. And Belief confers the confidence to pursue it.We’ve always found it works best to proceed from the top left quadrant. Start with Angst and cycle around to the Plan. That sounds more linear and clean than reality ever delivers. Bits and pieces of each quadrant bubble up organically. Find them, connect them and build your case.

ANGST: Establish a burning platform. Offer proof, or at least compelling indicators. Cite irrefutable data. Show what happened to those who failed to heed past warnings. Bring in experts to add credibility.  A simple set of interviews or a structured diagnosis will reveal the internal angst. And a proper market scan and trend analysis forewarns of the impending shifts.

VISION: Craft a compelling possible future. Show what it looks like when you establish a reputation as the category leader in innovation. Don’t shy away from the risks. Present the facts and trust better informed people to make better decisions.

BELIEF: Demonstrate that recognized leaders are committed to achieve the vision. Remember promises are wasted. Actions shout. Words whisper.

PLAN: Map out milestones to build the foundation for the vision. Show people where to start.Lacking a comprehensive framework like this, most companies pursue innovation – or any other strategic change initiative – haphazardly. Leaders pronounce bold visions that fall on deaf ears and jaded minds. “Flavor of the month.” Heard it before. “Wait a quarter and priorities will change again.”Others lay out plans but, in the absence of angst or belief, little progress is made. “It must have been a bad plan.”

Do the math. AVBP works.

You need all the parts, in the right sequence an in the right balance. Executives will come away from this program with the formula and the tools to drive change.