Leaders often complain about resistance to change. But what looks like resistance on the surface is often a lack of clarity. It is simply not enough to share a vision and then to stand back watching others turn it into reality.
Change consists of making new choices and behaving differently. A lack of clarity about what these new behaviours should be can lead to decision paralysis.
Chip and Dan Heath (Switch) have demonstrated with many examples that this paralysis gets a hold of us when we are unclear about our choices. In other words, it is not enough to proclaim a vision and then stand back.
What people need is a script of the critical steps for getting there. This means translating goals into concrete behaviours and daily or weekly routines.
In fact this process is not different to setting yourself an individual goal, say a health goal: How well has it worked out in your past when you told yourself that from nowon you were going to live a healthier live? To make a success out of this typical New Year’s resolution, you need to spell out what that means to you. What daily and weekly habits would build your aspired identity of being healthy and fit? You would have to become clear of the choices of food you buy and eat, and when you are going to work out. I assume that avoiding processed food would be a clear choice, but what about alcohol or chocolate, meat, or non-plant based foods?
If the critical steps as well as the criteria are scripted, change can be done. It’s all about behavioural routines that eventually lead you to who you want to be and how you want to be in the world.
Change on a bigger scale, involving more people than yourself, is no different to that. You need to spell it out: Who needs to do what? To give an example: What has to happen in meetings? Who has to attend them to make them worth while. And who does not?
In short: Organisational change happens on the individual level, and comes about through the daily small decisions people make.
Leadership has to create clarity about the goals and needs to relate them to day-to-day behaviours and decisions.