This was originally published in by PPS Impact Magazine and is co-authored by Robert S. Wainner and Laurence N. Benz.
It has been said that change is inevitable. Whether you like change or not, I think most would agree with Eric Hoffer who said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Which do you prefer, to learn or be among the “learned”?
There are a lot of theories, models, and approaches to the complex topic of change. The desire to simply default to a consistent behavior rather than adjust is likely one of the reasons most people find change difficult. Where are you supposed to start? Another likely reason is that practical frameworks for effecting intentional change are few and seldom taught.
This article will present an evidence-based model and heuristic process for intentional change that is effective, practical, and adaptable to your people and organization. In addition, we hope to expose you to the best change resources we have been able to curate. By doing so, our hope is that you will become a connoisseur of change who embraces the process.
Einstein once said that “Everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler.” So instead of delving into theory, we will present our heuristic process for change and review the theories, concepts, and techniques on which it’s based. Finally, we will share our own change journey over the last 18 months.
Our three-part heuristic process for driving change is getting the following three “W’s” right:
- The “Where”: Where are you now and where do you want to go? You need a compass and map.
- The “Why”: What is driving your powerful “Why”? You need to feel it coming from the inside.
- The “What”: What do you want to change and at what level? You have to be specific.
Successful change is the combination of really knowing where you want to go, having the internal motivation to get there, and being specific about where and how to leverage yourself and the environment for maximum impact. Resolving these three questions will ensure that you make the right change journey and help you drive it as smoothly as possible.
Now that we have described our heuristic process or rule of thumb for change, we will break down each part in more detail.
Your Compass and Map: Coaching 101
Change at its core really is a journey, and you need a compass and a map. Whether it’s an individual, a 1,000 plus organization, or something in between, it’s all about getting from point A to point B, which is your ultimate destination. It’s simple Coaching 101, but simple does not mean easy. What makes it hard is the lack of awareness most have in the following three areas:
- Knowing where you are: We all have blind spots, and you have to be willing to see those for what they are.
- Knowing where you want to go: Without a clear, compelling vision and powerful “Why,” your direction will be unclear and internal motivation will be lacking.
- Knowing how to bridge the gap: This is about having the right strategy and mechanics. When you have awareness and clarity in the first two areas, the “how to get there” often becomes self-evident.1
Your powerful “Why”: it has to come from the inside
Internal motivation equates to our “drive,” or why we do the things we do. Dan Pink has done a great job of curating Deci’s research2 and boiling down internal motivation to the basic elements listed here. People don’t necessarily have to have all three of these in place at the same time to be internally motivated, but they do need a sufficient measure of any one element to stoke the fires within.
- Autonomy: The desire to direct your life within an interdependent context.
- Mastery: The urge to make progress and get better at something that matters.
- Purpose: The urge to do what you do in the service of something larger than yourself.3
Be specific: Know what you really want to change
To be specific with organizational change, you have to know what you are dealing with and at what level. The 2 x 3 framework below is a helpful tool to determine whether you are primarily dealing with an issue of motivation or ability, and where to focus your efforts. Getting that combination right keeps your change efforts from falling flat and at the same time allows for maximum impact.4
Once you have identified your three “W’s” for change, you still have to get going and make the journey. And given the angst associated with change, you want the journey to be as smooth as possible.
In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath describe an approach that makes it easy to understand how to best get started. By using “Switch” concepts listed here, you can ensure you have the right mix of well-thought-out detail, measured emotion, and an environment that makes driving change efforts as frictionless as possible.
- Knowing: This refers to the cognitive element of the change you want to make, the large and small details, if you would (the “Rider,” in Switch language).
- Feeling: This is the affective or emotional element and gives you the power or “juice” to get where you want to go. Just because someone knows what to do does not mean they will do it.
- Environment: This is the context and milieu in which change occurs. Sometimes success is contingent on something seemingly as trivial as things being one click away instead of two, or as simple as seeding a tip jar.5
And now the big question: Do they really work?
There is more than ample evidence that each of the models described are effective for empowering change. And if our experience over the last 18 months is any indication, it seems to be effective when embodied in a simple heuristic process as well.
We started with a compass and a map. We knew we had three different companies in the rehab sector comprised of over 40 clinics and distinct business units with 400 people across 3 states. We also knew we had a vision for uniting those under a common ownership structure and brand that would bring economies of scale as well as focused attention and execution. By first solidifying where we were and where we wanted to go, we were able to get a clear vision of what we wanted to change, get agreement, and then take the next steps to bridge the gap.
Our purpose or powerful “Why” was and is to “Give more than it takes so that our people, our customers, and our enterprises continually flourish.” This is the “juice” that gave us, and continues to give us, our drive and passion.
We are still early in our journey and so far we have intentionally focused on three distinct areas of change. Early on our primary focus was to inculcate a “think small/stay local” mindset and ability among our individual team leaders. The next stage has been unifying our entire organization around the concepts of conscious positive leadership principles and inculcating those into our culture. A third effort was to adopt a “connect and collaborate” model of growth and management rather than a “command and control” approach, which is the typical model in modern business management. As the next area of change comes into focus, we will target our efforts accordingly while keeping the fly-wheel spinning on the others.
Finally, while it’s a work in progress, we keep things moving forward by intentionally pulling the right levers at the right time. This includes making sure we are up to date in our skills and knowledge, that we foster our social and emotional intelligence, and that we strive to keep the extraneous, the distracting, and the encumbering at bay so we can operate as efficiently as possible.
One thing is certain: Change is coming soon to a location near you. The real question is whether you are going to settle and drift along on cruise control or set a course for a destination and move change forward consciously. If it’s the former, realize that with today’s fast pace you’re going to eventually get left behind. If the latter, you have a heuristic that can serve as a GPS of sorts to help you get to where you really want to go. It’s up to you to decide where you want to go and how you want to roll.
1. Hicks R. Coaching as a Leadership Style: The Art and Science of Coaching Conversations for Healthcare Professionals. New York: Routledge; 2014.
2. Deci EL, Koestner R, Ryan RM. Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research. 2001;71(1): 1-27.
3. Pink DH. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books; 2011.
4. Patterson K, Al. JGE. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. McGraw-Hill Education; 2008.
5. Heath C, Heath D. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. Random House of Canada; 2010.
Robert S. Wainner, PT, PhD, ACC, FAAOMPT, is the executive/professional coach of Confluent Health. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Laurence N. Benz, PT, DPT, OCS, MBA, MAPP is the CEO of Confluent Health in Louisville, Kentucky. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.