What are the key steps for any leader or for anyone who doesn’t want to simply maintain the status quo? Let’s think about that.
First, what do you want to happen? There are three possibilities. You may want things to improve or get better. Next, you may want things to change or be different in some way you define. Finally, you may want to prevent something from happening or prevent some danger or risk from actualizing. In short, you want to improve, change or prevent. Sure, you may want to achieve more than one of these outcomes at the same time.
Second, take a close look at how things are right now. List everything that will be different when you achieve one or more of the outcomes in the first step. What will be different when things improve, when things change or when the danger or risk have been prevented?
Third, step two gives you a list of things that have to be changed or modified. For each of those action elements, what will it take to change or modify each of those elements? That gives you a step–by–step strategy for disrupting the status quo by changing or realigning each of the items on the list from step two to align with the new status from step one. It’s much like remodeling a house. You first envision the newly remodeled house and then determine what needs to be changed or modified in the original house, along with specifying what stays unchanged. You then develop a strategy for making the needed changes or modifications.
When we are dissatisfied with the status quo, the temptation to just do something can be very hard to resist. Too often, people can’t hold back. They do this or that, and before they understand what is happening, instead of things being better, they are a mess, are worse than they were before anything was done to improve, change or prevent.
There is an additional factor that is easily overlooked. Usually, we can’t shut down things while we are improving, changing or preventing. With our families, most organizations or other ongoing entities, we can’t put things on hold. Even though we are dissatisfied with the status quo, there are continuing responsibilities that require our attention. Even with remodeling a house, we may still need to live there while the remodeling is happening.
We normally need to be sure that our activities directed to improving, changing or preventing don’t disrupt or destabilize the status quo so much that things stop working or become dysfunctional. The requirement not to cause the status quo to crash means that the order of intervention and how rapidly it happens have to be managed in relation to assuring that the disruption in the status quo is also carefully managed. The simple idea is to cause as little harm or inconvenience as possible.
• What do you want to improve, change or prevent?
• Specifically, what elements will be changed or replaced once you have achieved what you want?
• What is your strategy for changing or replacing each of the elements?
• How will you assure minimal inconvenience or harm?
No matter what the scale of your leadership challenge is, your task is to incorporate the four points, in the order listed, into your intervention. There are no good alternatives or shortcuts. You will need to be sure that the necessary resources and expertise are there at each step along the way; but the steps are always the same and are not negotiable.
Now you know so there you go.