What do Brexit and Iceland tell us about change?
What an interesting few days!
A week ago we saw a close vote on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union and more recently, the England football team being booted out of Europe by a passionate team from Iceland.
Whatever your politics or sporting allegiance, there’s no doubt this has been quite a week.
We’ve not seen the plague of locusts yet, but they’re quite possibly on the way.
As change practitioners, you understand well the challenges inherent in the delivery of complex change.
But we thought this week we’d look at the EU Referendum and Euro 2016 and see if there are additional things we can learn – or at least be reminded of.
We think there are.
The EU Referendum
Vision: A vision without a plan to get there is high risk and certainly doesn’t constitute a strategy! The people you’re leading need to be clear on what the vision means for them. There’s no point promising the moon but then handing over soil masquerading as moon dust. You risk undermining your long-term position as leader if you try this trick.
Alignment is crucial. Your leadership team have to be completely aligned, and on message, if your people are to be committed to the change.
There has to be a compelling case. Sometimes it’s a balance of two options, neither of which is perfect; this still has to be articulated clearly, and in terms your people can engage with and understand. What’s in it for them?
Communicate, communicate and communicate. Make sure your message is landing. It’s not enough just to transmit and assume that your message is understood – either directionally, or in terms of the nuances of what the change will really mean in practice.
Build engagement. You don’t just need the people to agree with your arguments; you need them to get really engaged. Younger people in the ‘remain camp’ are complaining that the result didn’t reflect their wishes – but it appears that far fewer of them actually voted.
Appeal to the heart as well as the head. The case for change is invariably a rational one – business is rational, but people are a blend of reason and emotion. Hence a campaign that is overly, or predominantly, negative may not appeal in the face of a campaign that is less rational but more attractive.
And what about England 1 – Iceland 2?
Have a plan ‘B’, and be ready to use it well before the last five minutes.
Never under-estimate the challenges. Be prepared for the risks ahead. Always answer the simple question ‘how might this go wrong?’
Don’t moan about the leader after the campaign is lost. Have the right person leading from the start, and recognise that leading change is a team sport. Even the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Mandela had great teams around them.
Thoughts about your own challenges?
If you see particular change challenges ahead, please share them below and we’ll try to bring them together in a future article.
29 June 2016