How to transform your strategy into action and help your team endure through the painful effort of undertaking change. By Dan Jackson
All change efforts go through a cycle. You start with a high level of excitement about what can be. This is a mountain experience: exhilarating.
When your team understands the potential of the new initiative, enthusiasm grows. People can see the proposed future state with clarity and everyone’s excitement builds as the team prepares to move from dream to reality.
But then, in implementing the “brave new world”, there is a tendency to get lost in details; you have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. It is difficult to see the next mountain peak. Then you know you have entered the dark valley of change.
This is the point at which many projects falter. The original ideal has vanished from view and statements such as “this is not going to work” enter the team vocabulary.
What can you do to get out of the dark valley of change?
The secret to coming out of the valley is to maintain a constancy of purpose. That means to endure and stay focused on what it is you want to achieve. Focus on the goals you have set and, as a team, undertake not to give up. What separates success from failure is not intellect or technical edge, it is the courage to endure. Endurance is the forgotten key to successful change.
But how can you lift the team and keep going?
Get your team together and follow these helpful steps:
* Look back. Look how far you have come. In most cases, the team will have already made substantial inroads into the change initiative. Reflect on what you have achieved and take heart at the distance you have travelled. If appropriate, celebrate your achievements. Discuss what the journey so far has revealed about your ability to achieve the vision.
* Re-acquaint yourself and the team with your vision and the purpose of the change. Have your team envision what could be, just as you did at the outset. Stir up the original vision and refocus on the goals you set yourselves. Discuss what has changed, and work through those issues that tempt you to set up camp in the valley and lose your initiative. Where possible, maintain the original vision that kicked off your project.
* De-emphasise problems. Problems happen, and a break in the journey can often result. But do not give the problems too large a stake in the final outcome. As a wise person once said, an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. Problems that look like stumbling blocks can be used as stepping-stones on your way to the vision. Give the problems airtime, but no more than they deserve. A central strategy is to seek solutions as a group. There is an answer to every problem that can come up. Solve them and move on.
* Look up. Once you have identified the way forward, design a fresh action plan that takes the best of the old plan and includes all the new action you have designed. Remember to assign accountability for the action. Then get on with it.
Do not accept second best. Look to the top of the mountain. You may not even be able to see the peak, but you know it is there. So, start climbing.
Soon you find that the ground is rising. The going is harder, but the path is clear and uncluttered. As you climb above the tree line you will see the success you dreamed of and more. You are on top of a new, higher mountain. Look back to your initial mountain; it is off in the distance at a lower elevation. The valley does not seem so dark from this point. The darkness was only the shadow of perception: no unclimbable escarpments or unfordable streams.
Because you endured, you succeeded. Now you can enjoy the fruit of your labor.
But look, over there on the horizon: an even higher mountain offering even more potential, more excitement and more success. But only if you have the courage of your convictions and your team has the constancy of purpose to endure a trek through another valley of the dark shadows of perception.
How not to
How not to pay tax
High-profile business people are rarely fond of the idea of paying tax, but few have done better than Rupert Murdoch. When News Corporation had a profit of 1.4 billion ($3.2 billion) in Britain in 1987, he paid no corporate tax there.
Japanese corporations have been skilled at earning very little in public. In fact, in 1998 the Japanese entities in Australia’s top 20 foreign companies succeeded in reporting a net loss.
As the learned US judge, Learned Hand, put it, tax avoidance is not against the law, and there is nothing sinister in it. He opined: “Everybody does so, rich and poor, and all do right; for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”
How not to make a mistake
I always wanting to be a writer, and now I are one So, in the spirit of generosity so prevalent nowadays, I offer the following sage advice to the expiring writer and editor.
How to write good:
- Always avoid alliteration.
- Never use a big word when a diminutive will suffice.
- The adverb always follows the verb.
- Employ the vernacular.
- Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
- Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
- Remember to never split an infinitive.
- Contractions aren’t necessary.
- Foreign words and non-English phrases are not apropos.
- One should never generalise.
- Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
- Be more or less specific.
- Understatement is always best.
- Comparisons are as bad as clich’s.
- Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than absolutely necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
- One-word sentences? Eliminate.
- Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
- The passive voice is to be avoided.
- Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
- Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
How not to protect your human resources
In France, Jacques LeFevrier left nothing to chance when he decided to commit suicide. He stood at the top of a high cliff and tied a noose around his neck. He tied the other end of the rope to a large rock. He drank some poison and set fire to his clothes.
He even tried to shoot himself at the last moment. He jumped and fired the pistol. The bullet missed him completely and cut through the rope above him. Free of the threat of hanging, he plunged into the sea.
The sudden dunking extinguished the flames and made him vomit the poison. He was dragged out of the water by a kind fisherman and taken to a hospital, where he died of hypothermia.
How not to be a stable investment
For volatility in share prices, it is hard to go past the Bloomberg Internet index, which soared, and retreated, by a factor of 10 in the first eight months of 1999. Its capitalisation was as high as $US425 billion, and as low as $42 billion. Not that there was any lack of the cavalier in other parts of the market. A recent study of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of stocks comparing the ratio of stockmarket value of non-financial companies to their net worth suggested that the share prices were overvalued 48%.
A comparison of price-earnings multiples suggested an overvaluation of 54%.
And comparing dividend yields (the ratio of dividends to share prices) suggested an overvaluation of 63%.
This means that Wall Street, on average, is more than 50% overvalued. A similar comparison on the eve of the 1987 stockmarket crash showed that share prices were overvalued 25%.
The Slithershanks File
Slithershanks, ever the intellectual, finds himself immensely challenged by the ideas of “disintermediation” and “transparency” in the Tom Peters book The Circle of Innovation. Disintermediation is obviously something you do to rake more money into your personal bank account. And transparency is what you do to make it all seem invisible. Peters really makes you think:
“The short and long of it: Organisations as we have known them for hundreds of years are disappearing. Literally. What the hell is an organisation? It used to be about buildings. About departments. About fat payrolls. Now, it seems that it is not. Buildings are tumbling. Boundaries are vanishing. Where you start and where I stop are no longer clear. How far will it go? Very far.”