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When consultants discuss strategies for effectiveness or change, we like to talk about it in organizational terms. The standard algorithm for change is to begin with the end in mind. And the end, if we do this correctly, usually has to do with the goals of the overall organization, not a particular department.

The mission should impact accounting's objectives for the year, not the other way around. But unfortunately, as logical as it sounds, we know that logic doesn't always dictate our course of day-to-day action.

Enter Shift-Preparedness. Gaging whether your organization is ready for a shift requires a non-sequential strategy I like to call Shift-Preparedness, or SP. SP works the opposite of the standard algorithm for organizational change because it is not so focused on the end result, but the small parts and their real-feel ability to actually adapt to and adopt the change.

One of my recent clients in the West Coast was implementing a new call center to help provide in-house 24-7 customer service for students. They were changing their customer service operation from a department of 5 to about 20 employees, all of who were required to work shifts to meet the demand. This shift created a great expense for the organization, but it promises to improve its overall reputation, accessibility to potential students, and implicitly, outcomes. That was the big picture. But one small detail that I noticed in attending the meetings was that everyone had a pie-in-the-sky idea of how much this change would improve outcomes, and those in the department impacted by this major change were discouraged from expressing their concerns. Their questions were taken by management to be negative and not productive to the meeting. They were asked to defer questions to a later date which they knew would never happen because the project was already going full speed ahead.

Whether you're a manager or an employee, you've been in a situation where a major change was initiated without real, unadulterated feedback from the department involved. Depending how "sold" management is that this change will be the 3 magic beans, you may or may not be able to voice real concerns about the change. When you think of SP, think of the small pieces of the change.

How will this impact the smaller departments, the individuals, and then the organization at large? Thinking small when it comes to change helps create an environment that allows for honest discussion about specific concerns. These discussions will never be a waste of time if the meeting is organized and centered on the specific concerns. In fact, the discussion will create support, build confidence, and inspire staff beyond their status quo, and past intimidation and their fears.

Next time you think about initiating a big change, think small. Think Shift Preparedness.


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