The final two steps for creating the conditions for change

Posted by Roxanne Chugg

STEP 3: Developing the Change Vision
Explain how the future will be different.

A clear vision serves three important purposes:

  1. It simplifies hundreds of more detailed decisions and gives context to those decisions in a way that people can understand;
  2. It motivates people to take action in the right direction even if the first steps are painful (and it’s likely they will be); and
  3. It helps to align and coordinate the actions of different people in an efficient and effective way.

 

The vision of many organisations is really mundane and fails to inspire; their vision fails to create the commitment to make sacrifices in order to create a better future for its stakeholders; customers, clients, the organisation’s people, and often fails to create excitement about what lies ahead.  Often the vision is part of a larger system that includes strategies, goals, plans and budgets and people fail to see the connections and how what they do is going to contribute. The vision is the glue that holds everything together and makes sense of them both for the mind and the heart.

A vision must be seen as strategically feasible not some unachievable utopia. To be effective, a vision must take into account the current realities, but also set goals that are truly ambitious. Great leaders know how to make these ambitious goals look achievable. When a vision is supported with a strong, credible strategy, it becomes evident to people that the vision is not just a pipe dream.

A vision must provide real guidance. It must be focused, flexible and easy to communicate. It must both inspire action and guide that action. It should be a touchstone for making relevant decisions, but not be so constricting as to reduce the possibility of empowering action. Finally, it must be communicable. If it cannot be explained quickly in a way that makes intuitive sense, it becomes useless.

Thus, effective visions have six key characteristics. They are:

  • Imaginable: They convey a clear picture of what the future will look like.
  • Desirable: They appeal to the long-term interest of those who have a stake in the organisation.
  • Feasible: They contain realistic and attainable goals.
  • Focused: They are clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.
  • Flexible: They allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.
  • Communicable: They are easy to communicate and can be explained quickly.

Pitfalls

  • Failure to understand and act on the importance and power of a vision that inspires action and that people can identify, connect and align with;
  • Failure to create and communicate a clear, compelling, sound, and sensible vision to direct, align, and inspire action.

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.” – John Kotter


STEP 4: Communicating and getting buy in
Ensure people understand and accept the vision.

Gaining an understanding and commitment to a new direction is never an easy task.  Under-communication and inconsistency are real traps here. Both create stalled transformations.

Most organisations fail to effectively communicate their vision.  A single, all-staff email announcing the transformation or even a series of speeches by the CEO or GM and the executive team are not enough. To be effective, the vision must be communicated in hour-by-hour activities. The vision must be referred to in emails, state of the nation addresses, blogs, in meetings, in presentations, in performance management discussions and appraisals; both formal and informal – it must be communicated anywhere and everywhere.

Executives must use every effective communication channel possible to broadcast the vision. Consider turning boring and unread staff newsletters into lively articles about the vision. Turn ritualistic and tedious weekly, monthly or quarterly meetings into exciting discussions about transformation and the possibilities ahead. Throw out generic education programs and replace them with sessions that focus on removing barriers to achieving the new vision and celebrating the successes along the way (we’ll talk about this in a later blog).

In communicating the vision for the transformation, there are some things to keep in mind. The vision should be:

  • Simple: No jargon or clichés 
  • Vivid: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words – use metaphor, analogy, and example to tell stories people can connect with and that are memorable.
  • Repeatable: Ideas should be able to be spread by anyone to anyone.
  • Invitational: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication.

 

The role of leadership

Even more important than what is said is what is done. Leaders who transform their organisations “walk the talk” and “role model desired behaviour.”  They seek to become a living example of the new corporate culture that the vision aspires to. Nothing undermines a communication program more quickly than inconsistent actions by leadership. Nothing speaks as powerfully as someone who is backing up their words with behaviour. When an entire team of senior management starts behaving differently and embodies the change they want to see, it sends a powerful message to the entire organisation. These actions increase motivation, inspire confidence and decrease cynicism.

Pitfalls

  • Failure to communicate that the change vision is attractive and possible.
  • Failure to say it often and well.
  • Failure to get buy in.
  • Failure to hold visible, important people accountable to act it.
  • Failure of the guiding coalition to act consistently with the verbally communicated vision.
  • Failure of leaders to “walk the talk”

 

Brainy Quote Image – "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."

Source:  Kotters steps to change