I was having a drink recently with a colleague and he made the statement that “the right idea at the wrong time is as bad as the wrong idea at the right time”.  Having worked the last two years in change roles in a large business this quote really resonated with me.  One of the things I learnt when you are in a change agent role is that timing is critical.  Sure you start with a vision and a plan, but how and when you execute is just as important as your vision.

Sometimes you throw an idea out there and it just takes off.  Other-times it falls on deaf ears and you have to wait for the right time.   Through experience and failure we become more skilled at how to influence, how to navigate uncertainty and how to influence change.

Couple of tips I have learnt along the way:

  • People need to be ready for the change.  Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect but focus on the fact it is a journey.  Sometimes you need to go sideways to go forward.  Chip away at it and things will start to shift in your favour.  It is always great to see one of your sceptics become one of your evangelists.
  • People will push back at first so you need to be persistent. Eventually they become more comfortable with what you are pushing and eventually won’t even see it as a change.  You know you have succeeded when it becomes business as usual.
  • Don’t focus too much on whether you drive every aspect of the change.  Support those who want to take over from you and move on to the next tactic.
  • Some people will pick up on what you say quickly and will drive the change for you.  Others will resist more and take more time.    Use the early adopters to your advantage to help you influence the laggers.
  • Ensure your messages have common themes and link to a clear strategy so that people start to understand the ‘why’ over time and they progressively build up new ‘mental models, assumptions and beliefs’ of what success looks like.
  • Keep your messages simple and aim to engage with people’s sense of purpose.  Connect with people’s inner ‘why’ and focus on actualisation not fear.
  • Understand the levers that effect the most change.  You can do a lot of heavy lifting if you don’t focus on the right things.
  • Be patient but responsive.  Jump on opportunities quickly as they emerge.
  • Have a stakeholder map.  Understand who are the influencers in your organisation and who are the evangelists.  Key here is to build a movement so you are not the solo dancing man that everyone else is watching.

What are some of your tips for influencing change? What works and what doesn’t?