If Change is Hard, You’re Doing it Wrong

Pretty much all of my clients around the world are trying to change things, whether it be finding efficiencies, changing the way managers or staff work or trying to reach customers in news ways.

And pretty much all of them are finding it hard.

This morning, I had the pleasure of conducting another workshop on change and adaptability for a client of mine, and when I asked ‘what words come to mind when you think of change?’, the same, predictable answers arose from the 80-odd staff present: fear, anxiety, difficult, scary, hard.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to make change easier, to make it faster? There is!

The general problem we encounter when we try to change just about anything (and I do mean anything, whether you’re trying to do your laundry more regularly or trying to drive inter-silo collaboration) is that we try to do too much. We let our imagination run riot, we believe our own PR about how adaptable and efficient we are, and we say that ‘this time it will be different; this time we will definitely make the change happen’.

The result is we try to do too much.

If you want to massively increase your chances of making change stick – do less. At least at first, do less. Do less, just to get you started.

For those of you freaking out about the concept of doing less, think on this irony: by doing less, going one small step at a time, getting ‘sharp’ about what you change, you will actually get more done in the long run!

This simple concept is rooted in perhaps the most effective methodology for making change happen: Kaizen. This 60-year-old expression of a much older Japanese philosophy is what underpins things like lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System, and more importantly it WORKS to make change happen.

Rather than focussing on massive innovation or profound, rapid change, Kaizen asks a simple question: what is the SMALLEST possible change you could make? I repeat: the smallest possible change.

Want to start exercising more? Kaizen says start by doing one push-up a day. Want to eat better? Change one dietary item per day. Want to start collaborating more at work? Ask one person you wouldn’t normally ask if they have any ideas. Need to get more productive? Spend one minute less on Facebook to start with.

Here are three simple questions to ask yourself next time you’re trying to make a change.

  1. What is directly in my control to change? (thinking about other things is a waste of time!)
  2. What would I like to change about this situation?
  3. What is the smallest possible change I could make to start making that happen?

Start small. So small it almost seems ridiculous. If the step you are going to attempt seems hard or difficult – it is too big (hence the title: if change is hard, you’re doing it wrong!).

What happens is a snowball effect. You start small, and soon you start developing new habits to replace the old ones. All of sudden, taking larger steps seem easier because now you’re ‘on a roll’.

If change is hard, you’re doing it wrong! Start small – start the Kaizen way; better a small step in the right direction than no step at all.

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If Change is Hard, You’re Doing it Wrong

Dom is an internationally engaged speaker and facilitator who helps individuals and organisations drive behaviour change in the face of external disruption.

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