Take a cake out of the oven too soon and it collapses

Big Thoughts

8 January 2014 • Written by Richard Scott-Will-Harknett

Richard Scott-Will-Harknett discusses the importance of an external voice to motivate continual and sustainable change…

Change is always hard. Even the simple ‘quick wins’ become hard as we try to sustain them in our lives. This is true whether it’s an individual, a team or an organisation, although each becomes progressively harder as more people get involved (people are just hard!).

Real change only happens once you realise that you want or need to change, that something is broken, or that, for whatever reason, you are dissatisfied with the current state. 

But that’s not enough. You then have to make a decision to change, to consciously decide to do it. You must commit.

But that’s not enough either because then you have to actually make the change. Plan to break it down. Make small step-by-step changes. Having woken up to the need for change and made the decision to commit, you now have to step up and do it. Words and plans help to shape the direction – and don't we love our lists and plans? But you get nowhere without doing. See it, decide and commit and then do.

And the doing is the really hard part – not just for one day, one week or one month. It's continual, relentless and hard. Going it alone leaves you open to failure. This is why change as an individual fails more often than it succeeds. It's why people join clubs or groups or see personal trainers. It’s why organisations use people like me as coaches. In a transformative change, the support of someone external is often needed, whether that change is happening at an individual, group or organisational level.

This challenge is compounded when we look at teams and their organisations taking on Agile. 

Now here’s the bit where lots of people I work with feel like the rug has been pulled from under their feet. With Agile, once you have started, there is no end. Because the destination we strive for is perfection and perfection is an aspiration, not a destination. By taking on Agile, it’s not just about hitting a specific target. 

An external voice is needed to help people hold themselves to account until they embrace the mindset of continual improvement and realise that it means continual change. Change is the new status quo.

Drop a coach too soon and you’ll slip back to old ways or try to use the new ways which you may not fully understand and so could misinterpret and wonder why you don't see the impact you expected. When I come back to clients that I work with on a repeat basis, they often say something like “If only we’d kept you going for a bit longer last time…”

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