“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

How true are these words? Why they matter so much to a person leading an organization through a change is the more important question. The answer is simple: people’s lives will be affected. Our largest resource is our people. Because of that, we must be vigilant in ensuring that whatever changes are moved through an organization must first consider that very important resource itself.

Three questions must be asked when preparing to plan for change.

  1. How will this change make our people better off?
  2. Will our people be able to thrive in this new environment?
  3. Why would our people get excited about this change?

Failure to ask those three questions can be a real show-stopper as you prepare to move through a change. Fully considering the whats, hows, and whys as it applies to the change that you may be preparing inform every single part of the change itself. We will take them one by one.

1. How will this change make our people better off?

The first and most important of these questions and it deals with the core issue. Because if we cannot make people better off as a by-product of change then why do it in the first place. To answer that question, it requires you to know the temperament of your people and how your particular brand of change can make their lives better.

In planning for my own organization’s change I wanted to get in depth into the employee situation. I wanted to understand how hard these people were working. I wanted to take every single detail of their workday into consideration when planning for my change. The research provided some interesting clues into what people go through. The most consistent point that kept coming up was the issue of separating when work ends, and life outside of work begins.   

As the employer, I cannot force people to stop working at a certain time, that is their choice. And in a society where that “nonstop” workday seems to continue to grow, I felt that it would be better if I could approach it two ways. First was instituting some limitations to what they do.

For instance, when a person is normally burning out, we tend to try to reduce the workload. In my situation, I wanted to shift the workload to other team members that may or may not have had as much structure to their working day. This shifting would increase the capacity of the burned-out worker without asking them to do more work. The second move was to literally count how many actions and mouse clicks that were taking place daily and re-engineer how that would take place. My goal was to reduce mouse clicks by half. I felt the combination of reduction of mouse clicks, and duties per day and the limitation of what the job is by spreading the work through the other positions would be able to better address burn out and provide an example where it was not a person on an island but a person in a rowboat with others!

2. Will our people be able to thrive in this environment? 

This one was tougher for me because this one deals with the idea of “who” the people are that you are introducing the change to. Knowing their personality type is imperative to build the right program to fit their individual skill sets. The easiest and most effective way to do this was to discuss with them, who they are and what they love to do and what they do not love to do. This can be tricky because you desire an honest and open dialogue. But often their fear of change can make it be more muted. It is a firm belief of mine that people will thrive when they are doing the things that bring them the most joy.

The great news for most businesses is that with the existing people we have, we can work to re-engineer jobs to be pointed to the best use of a person’s time and talent, with the understanding that it must serve the organization’s chief function. For the planning for my company, I employed a unique method of doing this. I call it the Dynamic Discussion. The job engineering comes from the market or customers that you are seeking. They tell you every day how they feel about things. This is the creation of the job descriptions that will be available for your employees to work within. It is important to note that no swap in job will result in any immediate changes in compensation.

Employees—whether they tend to admit it or not—do take jobs for the money and they use money as the measurement of their job and performance. This is the society that we live in and it will not be changing. To that end, we must enter the discussion with the idea that you are going to tell us who you are and what you take the most joy in doing. Then we present the job descriptions and answer whatever questions we can. The management team then takes that information and begins a process of taking the information from the employee and matching it to the information within the job descriptions. It does not necessarily mean an employee will be in a different role. Most of the time it confirms the type of role they are in and that is a pat on the back to you the leader for making the right hiring decision in the first place.

3. Why would our people get excited about this change? 

Now to the but. So, while they may be the right fit for the job and while they may feel the same as you about that fit since nothing will seemingly change, why would they get excited about it? This is where the work of the re-engineering takes place. When re-engineering a job, it is important to break it down to its most basic elements. You must address the seemingly endless answer of “this is the way we have always done it.” There is only one rebuttal to that statement, and it is the simple, why? The five Y’s is a process of asking questions and getting answers with the idea that if you ask why enough, eventually you will get to the root answer to the question. The five Y’s represent asking why at least five times to get to the root of things. This will be a strange comparison, but if you consider asking the five why’s, and meditation they are very similar.

In meditation, you would work to clear your mind by humming or chanting or sitting in silence looking out the window. At some point the mind slows down and allows for the greater relaxation period which is literally taken as nothing going through the mind. The five Y’s are similar in that when asked at least five times, all the noise and the clutter around an issue in the brain can be pushed to the side to get to the root. I believe in meditation and I believe in the five Y’s for getting to the root of things. Now that it is established that you will work to get to the root issue, you can really begin the process of job re-engineering. Because the attic is cleaned out and the clutter is clear, and most of the time you find that the reason why “we always did it that way” normally is wrapped around a person in a job that created a work around from a system to make a job easier for them, that does not take into account the changes that may have happened since that decision was made or the market changes that are introduced during that same time.

To plan to change, ask yourself those questions, formulate answers on your employees’ behalf, and then when you are prepared to change, begin the process of re-engineering so that a change can take place in a way that takes the best care of the people in your organization. Because they are “the” organization.