Organizations going through big changes often fall prey to their original change plan because following it suggests that leaders and their project teams have everything worked out. The longer the team stays on track, the greater the confidence that it is the right plan. Conversely, adjusting the plan can make it look flawed and raises doubts about the path forward.
In an environment where changes are seen as mistakes, people focus their efforts on delivering the plan versus testing it to make sure it will still deliver results. This behaviour is reinforced when rewards are tied to plan completion instead of what it delivers.
This is not how change initiatives work; the plan often needs to be modified as new information becomes known. Making real-time adjustments can mitigate risks and focus resources where they will have the greatest impact.
You need to take a step back when new information becomes known to see if it has any bearing on the change plan. I do this by asking these questions:
1) Why is it important?
This helps me differentiate between important and urgent information. Sometimes things can seem important based on how it is delivered. If it is important, what are the implications of this data? How does it impact the plan, if at all?
2) What do I need to know?
New information requires investigation, which usually creates additional information needs. Asking this question helps me determine what I already know and what I need to source. It also demonstrates to stakeholders that action is being taken.
3) What experiences can I learn from?
Similar circumstances have most likely occurred in this organization. This question often leads to hypotheses or options to consider. Similar experiences also help identify risks associated with different courses of action.
4) What works and doesn’t work?
In any organization, culture and current business realities influence what leaders and their teams will support or reject. For example, a very hierarchical organization will most likely reject a course of action that requires employee empowerment and decision making. Looking at options through these filters help identify changes that will be effective.
It is easy for your plan to become the goal versus the result it is intended to deliver. Taking a step back to ask a few questions will help define the best path forward, even if it is different from the original one.