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The 3 D’s of Leading Successful Change

December 16, 2011

When you need to lead others through a change, what are the absolute 3 things you should do? What works for other wise leaders? And, what should you never do?

Here are 3 strategies that help you plan for and guide change that work across all industries. You’ll be surprised how prospective changes can become successful changes if you use these 3 D’s.

Since change is inevitable and most of us lead change in living system versus machines (think people and teams and all their complex feelings, thoughts, inclinations) it’s useful to continually refine our strategies for introducing and managing change. Plus, it improves your leadership resilience when you work in concert with the nature of change rather than acting like change is linear and you can simply exchange one part for another.

The First D: Degree  – What is the Extent of the Change?

Like Captain Pickard in Star Trek, the first priority is to assess the Degree of unknowns. How much change do you want to make? Is it a Minor change with minimum differences or a Major change, involving multiple layers of intersecting people and systems? Or is it a Transformative level of change that involves a fundamental shift in the way business is done involving beliefs and ways of thinking as well as actions and systems?

Changes get stalled, even the best ideas ignite illogical resistance and end up with unintended and sometimes damaging consequences if you act like it’s a simple minor change but the change feels major to those involved. When you assess the Degree of change ahead of time, even ask a few people who will be affected to give you their assessment– you cultivate readiness, develop acceptance for the need for change and improve the willingness of key people to go through the chaos that inevitably follows.

The Second D: Developmental Phases – Change is a Journey

Whether you are planning change that involves an entire corporation or just your closet, there is a transition from the present state to an altered future state. During this transition, the way you have always done things can be profoundly challenged or superficially rearranged. It is a journey. Things develop, grow, expand, arise, fall apart and work out as you go through the common stages of the transition passage.

William Bridges [] brought the three-stage roadmap of transitions to mainstream culture with his book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, in 1980. Be proactive. Notice who is in which stage – who is still Ending the past, or unaware that change is needed/ who is in the Middle passage of making change/ who is in the final stage, the New Beginning, working within the new structures and behaviors. Design your change strategies to speak to those people in each stage.

The Third D: Dimensions of Change

A change is incomplete without shifts in the three dimensions of behavior, structure and consciousness. These shifts involve both people and the organization. When any one of the three is missing, the system easily reverts to old ways of doing things.

It takes web-like awareness to understand how a change ripples out to affect others. You know that anyone can offer a “good idea” for change, but real change does not happen until the whole system, or web of relationships, agrees to change.

You understand that change unfolds in dynamic, nonlinear, non-rational and intuitive ways and that any system needs to build readiness before a change can take hold. Employing the 3-D framework — Degrees, Developmental Stages, and Dimensions— increases leadership resilience.

Join Leaders in multi-national corporations, small firms and partnerships use them to anticipate the emotional, dynamic and irregular progression of change. They come with powerful tips you can immediately apply in business and in life.

P.S. This is an element of the curriculum of the Next Octave Women’s Leadership Program where you’ll learn to proactively identify emergent changes (before they become a crisis) and guide those changes for positive outcomes for everyone. Applications are now available.

This was first published as an article as a Linkage Leader Article – 9/2011

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