By Scott Jancy. Blogger, speaker, and consultant based out of Washington, DC. Passionate about the role that design and leadership can play in creating lasting change.

Website: | FB: @scottjancyblog

Design, leadership, and technology are directly affecting our lives. Scott Jancy explains more

It appears that the new normal in business is dynamic and emerging. People would also probably include words like, agile, lean, mindful, or innovative. Will there ever be a point in time when it’s fashionable to be fixed, permanent, or static? Life has always been constantly moving, however, our approach to how we interface with life has evolved.

People can no longer afford to stay in one place. To survive, we must change or transform. Whether that means physically moving to another location or somehow making new connections through technology, we must create new relationships. One can’t afford to not branch out.

As I talk to aspiring leaders, seasoned executives, and even startups I have been finding that they have one thing in common: many are struggling with how to create and lead change in this kind of environment. It’s easy to come up with ideas to solve problems or grow your customer base, but much harder to implement them when the cultural, economic, social, and political landscape is always shifting.

In this article I lay out a practical guide for creative leaders to use to lead change. This 12-step process will help you think about how to get one from point to another, develop new connections, enable creative collaboration, and spur insights that can drive your team forward.

Discovering opportunities

1. Where do you want to go?

The process of changing from one state of being to another requires an input of energy. Putting effort into a project is much easier when you have a sense of where you’d like to be or what you want it to become. A vision of the future, however vague, is what kick starts the creative process and helps generate the momentum necessary to move the process forward.

Creating a vision and then communicating it to another person is a very personal act. What if they don’t like it or disagree with it? Or what if they can’t comprehend why you are thinking these thoughts or why you’d want to change? However difficult that may be, that is eventually what is required if you want to build a team to help you build a new future.

2. What does the current landscape look like?

Having a vision is one thing, but figuring out how to bring it to life is another thing altogether. Ideally, we’d all like to have someone swoop down and remove the impediments to achieving our goals or an angel investor to come down and immediately fund a project.

However, if you haven’t looked around you to see what resources are immediately available for you to work with, then you are doing yourself a disservice. The foundation of long term, sustainable growth is in working with the people and tools around you.

A curious thing starts to happen when you pick your head up and survey what’s at your disposal. With my vision in mind, I start to see resources differently in that I begin to realize what I can use and what I can’t. My mind starts to group resources together and make connections between them that creates new possibilities. These possibilities become opportunities for people to develop into resources, partners, sources of funding, or simply support.

3. What is the impact on your business?

In examining this resource landscape, you also in a way are beginning to test your ideas on others. Their reactions impact the way you see your vision. Some may disagree with you and that’s ok, but others will get excited about the potential and help push you forward. How you choose to react to these thoughts is entirely up to you. Don’t be discouraged by a negative reaction–they may not fully understand what you are trying to achieve, and it’s your job to help get them there.

As connections and new possibilities appear, it will impact what you are currently doing. Positively, the act of looking forward or outwards may help you determine how you discover new markets for your products and services. Negatively, your new view may steer you away from possibilities that don’t align with your vision of the future, or perhaps more importantly, your values.

When you have a better sense of how various resources can now be used to help you build your vision, the path to get there will begin to emerge.

Planning change

4. Have you mapped your network and all possible options?

Seeing your resources, how they relate to you, how they relate to each other, and why they may be useful to you can be accomplished developing an understanding of the system in which you work. Key people, decision points, factors influencing your network need to be visualized. I find it effective to start drawing what I know, and then connecting the dots between items that have have direct relationships with one another.

When the network is mapped and the question of how to achieve your vision is asked, then it is easier for people to see how the system around them can be used or influenced to help them achieve their goals.

5. What is your long term plan to achieve your goals?

The path to achieving a goal and bringing a vision to life is very often not linear and time and competing interests can seem to conspire against you. Creating change requires taking incremental steps to get there. An overarching goal for the year is great, but what is happening quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily? When you can see the steps required to get there, it is easier to see how the resources around you can be utilized and influenced.

6. How will you accomplish your goals on a day to day basis?

The truth about change is that it requires a daily effort. Commitment to a cause at that level is necessary in order for you to make long term progress and, most importantly, for the change to become lasting. Lists of tasks that need to be completed work well for some people because it enables them to stay on task. Small, consistent steps are how you chip away at a large problem.

Taking action

7. How will your organization be structured to support the change?

Once you have a vision and a sense of the path to get there, what’s next? Ask yourself if you have everything you need to take that first step. Many initiatives fail from the start because they aren’t ready to take on a new project. People may not be aware of what they need to do to help, support, or provide you with assistance along the way.

Clear communication to your organization about what you are doing, where you are going, and how you are going to get there is required in order for a change effort to succeed for the long term. If your new project is crossing multiple departments or functions with your organization, then it needs to be made clear to them how they will support you. More importantly, they need to see how their actions are contributing this effort.

8. What specific methods will be used to help your business change?

How change is created depends on the problem at hand and where you want to go. A defined process that can be easily communicated to others is a good place to start. The establishment of a feedback loop is critical so that you can gather real-time information about the progress of your work. It also enables you to adjust your methods and process while you are moving, and actively test new ideas that may improve your work. Effective follow through on any feedback that you receive will strengthen your efforts.

9. Are any tools required to assist?

How your message is conveyed to others is critical. Will you hold regular meetings and conference calls to keep members of your team on the same page and to monitor progress? Digital tools can help people collaborate and improve the dissemination of information as it comes in from the front lines or other parts of your organization.

Tools can help a leader extend their reach and maximize their influence over a system. How you choose to use them depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Minimizing your dependence on them is necessary to maintain your flexibility in thought and process during your change effort. Don’t let the tools you are using drive your work.

Following through

10. How will you optimize the new way of doing business to achieve lasting change?

Continual awareness of how your new organization is performing will help you achieve lasting change. When you can see how people respond to your work, you have the ability to make adjustments on the go as customer demands evolve, as employees find better ways to make things happen, or as the economic landscape shifts.

Knowing how and when to implement change is just as important as having the knowledge and information about your work. Not all changes will have the desired effect, but you have to be willing to take the chance that it will improve what you are doing. If it doesn’t work out, then move on to the next idea.

11. How will you measure success?

Reaching milestones or goals that you have set for yourself is good way to start thinking about how to measure your progress. So is keeping customers happy or solving a particular problem. Goals can be quantitative in nature and tied to a specific metric, or may be qualitative and related to how your perform your work.

I find that the process gets off to a good start when you create specific goals in the first place. The more definition that you can provide for your goal, the better you will be able to assess your performance. Once the goals are set, then reviewing your progress at regular intervals is the framework you will use to track your progress.

12. How will you get feedback and continually improve your business system?

The establishment of channels to provide feedback are the first step in generating information about how your business is performing. People need to know how to reach you and communicate their thoughts to you.

The most effective way to get feedback is to get out and talk to your customers and with the people that are performing the work. Qualitative information about how people are responding to your new business products or services is invaluable and will help you to develop a sense of what may be coming next.

Reviewing business metrics adds another dimension to understanding how a business is performing. This information will indicate that there is a problem, but may not direct you to the cause or where a change needs to be made. Reviewing quantitative and qualitative information is the best way to get a holistic view of your new operation.

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