‘It’s where he is now but it wasn’t what he planned.’ A personal experience of change

‘It’s where he is now but it wasn’t what he planned.’IMG_0916

These words had been going around my head for weeks since I heard the Damon Albarn song ‘Mr Tembo’.

Somehow it has particularly resonated as I was facing a not unexpected but nevertheless unsettling change in my career.

Change always has the potential to destabilize whether it is personal or professional. We get comfortable in our habits and our mind sets and any change creates a discomfort and even fear of what the future may hold.

Although Elisabeth Kubler-Ross  wrote about the experiences of the dying, her words have been taken to be a model for any change, and although this was not really intended there is a recognition that people facing change may move through certain stages of emotion.

  1. Shock and denial – what is happening and maybe it won’t happen to me!
  2. Anger and fear – why me and what will I do, how will I cope?
  3. Acceptance – this is where I am, even if it’s not what I planned
  4. Commitment to move forward

Even when change is anticipated, certain of these stages can be experienced as it is not always easy to accept change and move on. It is important to acknowledge that when change is happening a whole set of emotions will follow and this can be a messy and complex time.  We need to make sense of change and to allow ourselves to grieve for what has been before we can move on to what is to come.

Coming back to the lyrics of My Tembo,  what has helped me to move on is that this is where I am now even if it wasn’t what I planned, so it helped me to take a leap into the third stage, accept what is,  and move on to commitment to move forward.

What can help in moving through these stages?

My suggestions:

  • Talk it through with a partner, friend, coach, counselor to make sense of the change and how it impacts you.
  • Develop scenarios of what you can do when the change happens
  • Make positive plans for the future
  • Start to take action – baby steps are good at this stage
  • Have a support network to fall back on when the doubt and negativity arise

What would you add to this?

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information take a look here .

What is really important in a change programme?

I recently came across a very interesting article about Kaizen methods
climbing steps together at Montmatreof change which led to me revisiting the concept of Kaizen and change. I have always understood Kaizen to be about facilitating change through small steps. In fact the original Kaizen approach, as declared by the Kaizen Institute , emphasizes that it is not just about small steps, rather it is about everyone being involved in change.

Some time ago as part of my MBA study I watched a video about kaizen being implemented in a small UK manufacturing organisation, Dutton engineering. What resonated with me and which I recall so well, was the pride that one of the shop floor workers took in an improvement he had made himself in his work processes. This resulted in a much higher level of engagement than is often normal for this type of industry. Having started my career in manufacturing industry my observation would be that processes are driven by management with little involvement of people using them.

So in revising  what is really important in facilitating a change programme, I have concluded that the following aspects are the most important

  1. Engagement

If people are not engaged in the change process, understand the need for change and can see what’s in it for them, then they will not support the change. For a discussion on engagement see this blog post here.

  1. Supportive leadership

I emphasise here the word leadership rather than leaders. Leadership is a concept that can be applied to anyone willing and being accepted to take on the role of facilitating change whatever their position in the hierarchy. Change requires leadership which is supportive, emotionally intelligent and resilient.

3. A compelling vision

This should probably be first however it is crucial that a compelling vision is created in order to inspire people. The best type of compelling vision is one that is co-created by engaging people in the process of change. I have written before about this in this blog post.

4 Commitment at the top level of the organisation to sustain the change.

So many organisations I have worked with have short terms plans which change from year to year. If change is to be successful it must have long term commitment and not be flavour of the month. Change does not happen quickly, however organisations try to make it so, and in doing this they fail to implement fully what is needed for the change to be sucessful. This becomes a self defeating cycle because next time a similar change is suggested people can say we tried this once and it didn’t work! So commitment to the long term is important.

5 Developing a flexible plan

In terms of sustaining the change, not only are vision, leadership, engagement and commitment needed but also a flexible plan. A plan or a map of the journey to the change is important and I would argue that this needs to have in built flexibility such as Mintzberg advocated.

What would you add to this list?

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information take a look here .

Life is lived forward and understood backward

To quote Mintzberg whom I referenced in my last blogpost , ‘As Kierkegaard once observed, life is lived forward but understood backward. Managers may water featurehave to live strategy in the future, but they must understand it through the past’

At the point at which events happen we often cannot totally understand their meaning and certainly not their full implication. We can only infer what this may mean in the future. However we can and should look back and reflect how events have shaped where and who we are now in order to move forward.

This is not about being stuck or living in the past, rather it underlines the importance of reflection.

I have always been a strong supporter of reflective learning and its importance in the process of learning and development, both formal and informal.

There are two ways in which Schon  recommended that we reflect:

  • Reflecting in action whilst doing something. Often this is incorporated into learning journals which are used in formal study
  • Reflecting on action, that is after the event. This concept was further developed by Peter Senge as part of his work on the Learning Organisation.

So reflection is valuable and important both from an individual point of view and organisational, however  here I will focus on the individual and come back to organisational reflection at a later date.

To recap, reflection is important in learning, in making sense of how we got to be where we are now so that we can do things differently in the future.

It is important to have a framework in which to do this and Kolb offered this when he developed the learning cycle:

The learning cycle

Based upon this, here are some guidelines on reflecting:

  1. Take the time after an event to consider what worked well, what didn’t work well and what can be learned from this
  2. Note this down in a journal either electronically or by hand. I still much prefer to keep a journal by hand!
  3. Identify from the lessons learned what needs to be done differently
  4. Adjust your plans and note these down at this point.

An example of my use of this has been in facilitating workshops. I plan, reflect and then capture the lessons learned and rewrite the plan for use next time.

In developing a personal development plan for moving forward the same principles apply.

  • Consider what has happened in your life, maybe taking a timeline and significant events, and identify what went well and what you have taken from this. What has changed you, what did you learn?
  • Then review what didn’t go so well and reflect on what happened. What were the barriers to your success and how could you have overcome them?
  • It is as important to reflect upon what worked well as upon what didn’t work so well.

This is not an exercise in beating yourself up! However it is important to be able to capture an understanding of what worked and why, and what didn’t work and why, in order to move forward.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris. For more information contact barbara here



Goals are important however they should not be set in stone

As someone who is in the business of supporting others to change, I accept that the setting of goals is very important. However I am reminded, every time I set a goal, of the line from John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy,  ‘ Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans’.Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

I am sure this has been interpreted many times in many ways however I wanted to share my take on this and the context in which I am writing this.

I personally find that planning or goal setting is an important activity that keeps me moving forward. However none of us can really predict the future, although some try, so whatever we plan cannot cover all possibilities.

Mintzberg likened the process of strategy making, (I am taking strategy making to be about planning how to achieve goals), to that of a potter who has a good knowledge of her capabilities, her past experience, her market etc. She does not however analyse these explicitly, rather she implicitly senses what she is doing and what direction to take. From this metaphor, Mintzberg made a comparison with managers sensing their environment, keeping open to possibilities emerging and crafting strategy accordingly. This was termed emergent strategy. What is required in order for an organisation to be successful in terms of emergent strategy  is for flexible structures, an open climate, hiring creative people and developing a vision of an umbrella strategy. Then when the unexpected happens, the organisation is ready to respond.

So coming back to the line Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans, I believe this can be interpreted in two ways and both are as equally important in personal goal/strategy development as in organisational strategy.

  1. If we are making plans then we are moving forward. That action of propulsion forward gives us energy and motivation and we then start to see things change!
  2. We cannot plan for every eventuality as Mintzberg stated, and so we need to have a vision, be flexible and open to new opportunities as and when they happen. The vision is our guiding light here and the goals are intended  and can be changed if the need arises, for example due to external change or new opportunities occurring. So we craft our own strategy towards emerging goals and stay aware that life happens and we may need to adapt these goals.

The take away here is that going through a goal setting process together with creating a vision is motivating in itself and can, and often does, offer us other possibilities if we are prepared to be open.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris.

Enabling change in an energised way

I have been enabling change for as long as I have been working! This has taken many forms, as a manager, a teacher, trainer, facilitator and coach. One of the constant challenges I have found is how to gain peoples buy in to what can be a very painful process. If we are honest, few of us like change initially. You just have to look at the way people choose to I am out of my comfort zone!sit in the same seats every day on their daily commute! We create our own comfort zones by forming habits and performing rituals on a  daily basis. This provides a sense of security and I am not knocking this as I need this as much as anyone, however we do need to be pushed out of our comfort zones in order to grow and develop and for change to happen.

So what I have been looking for for many years has been a process for change that energises people, excites them, and is fully actionable.

I believe I found this when I first came across the work of Richard Boyatzis as part of his collaborative work on emotional intelligence.

Boyatzis developed an approach to personal change which recommends the following stages

  1. Identify Ideal self
  2. Identify Real self
  3. Identify the gap between the two and plan to reduce the gap
  4. Experiment with new behaviour
  5. Get support whilst working through the process

In my work I have used this process on a one to one basis, and adapted it for teams. My observations around the process are noted here:

  1. In identifying the ideal self it is extremely helpful to work in images, that is to create an image of your ideal self and bring this to life in your mind by visioning it. I also recommend that people then draw this to share with others rather than describe it in words.
  2. In identifying the real self it is helpful to use assessments such as a strengths profile. This helps to balance the sometimes negative space that people can be in when considering where they are now.
  3. In identifying the gap, I use a storyboard approach which again provides a visual image of the journey from real self to ideal self. One point I would make here is that it is more energising to work back from the ideal self than to move forward from real self. Moving forward from real self can be like walking through treacle and can result in stuckness!
  4. Experimenting with new behaviour can seem a little strange at first however in order to change, you need to do something different. That’s clear! However our brains are wired to follow the habits and paths we have already built up. In order to change this we really need to work hard and consistently to change these paths.
  5. Coaching or mentoring can be a very good way of getting support for the new behaviour because what is important here is to have a support process when change becomes uncomfortable when we are out of our comfort zone, and also to celebrate when we succeed.

Barbara is an executive coach, creativity and change facilitator with extensive experience of supporting people and organizations achieve their potential.

To try out a free program using the process described above take a look here