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The answer to this can be highly complex, or surprisingly simple, depending on your approach. We have tried to adopt a simple but thorough model of Five Principles to transform performance:

  1. Accurately assess the readiness to change.

  2. Clearly state the overall strategic direction.

  3. Identify the key stages on the journey.

  4. Gain commitment to the common goal.

  5. Establish a process to learn and grow.

If you are looking to transform performance it is important that you identify some key steps. The principles model above is just one suggested model; you need to identify a model that works for you, your team or your organization. At the end of each of the principles there is a series of questions designed to prompt reflection and, it is hoped, highlight some key areas of development that could make your implementation more effective. Choose the questions that are most relevant to your organization; you may want to compare your answers with other colleagues. If you are acting as a coach, identify the ones that are most appropriate in your work with others. The answers can help you build a development strategy.

Step 1: Accurately Assess the Readiness to Change

If you are developing a process for change you need to identify where you are starting from, and quantify the scale and scope of the required change. This can be assessed at an individual, team or organizational level. It is also important to test reality: how achievable are your goals, again from an organizational, team or personal perspective? It is important to look outside the organization. What is happening to your competitors? What legislation may impact on your business? What are the key trends?

Sometimes change can be seen as overwhelming, and this is one of the main reasons why change initiatives fail. Almost like a giant rabbit frozen in headlights, an organization fails to identify which direction to take. Alternatively, individual managers and their teams run off in a set of different directions, each well meaning but totally uncoordinated. Although the perceived scale of change required may seem to be enormous, it becomes much more achievable when scaled down into specific projects or time-frames.

It is fundamentally important to recognize the real starting point. Often organizations involve external consultancies to identify what needs to change, but the same information can be identified from within the organization by undertaking a realistic and honest assessment of the state of readiness of your organization by talking to your customers, employees and suppliers.

It is also important to recognize what has been achieved, what is working well and what can be built on. Step 5 particularly links to this point and emphasizes the need to learn from your current experience rather than keeping on reinventing or discarding current practices.

Questions that you may want to consider

  • Looking back over the past 12 months, what have we really achieved?

  • What has worked? Where could we have been more successful?

  • What development have we offered our employees? Who have been our star players? Who needs more support? (Apply this at all levels in the organization.)

  • What feedback have we had from our customers?

  • What do our customers need that we don't currently give them?

  • What feedback have we had from our suppliers? What service levels have we got with our key suppliers? Why would they want to continue doing business with us?

  • Where are we in our market place? What have people been saying about us? What media coverage have we had?

  • What are our competitors doing? What other external factors may have an impact on us?

  • What about our community investment? What have we done for the community, locally, nationally?

  • How prepared are we to cope with change?

Step 2: Clearly State the Overall Strategic Direction

Importantly you also need to identify your level and span of influence. Organizationally who are your sponsors? Can you achieve real change from your position? Depending on your role within the organization you may feel that you have a greater or lesser role to play in planning the journey; however, there are a number of ways that you can become involved.

Wherever you sit within an organization you will have a role to play in the achievement of the overall goals. Transformation teams need champions at all levels within an organization.

You may not sit on the executive board; however, you may be a head of department, team leader or manager with responsibility for others. Individually everyone has responsibility for themselves; therefore in some way it will be possible to identify an overall strategic direction. If you're responsible for others it is important to ensure that whatever goals or overall direction you are setting it is synergetic and linked to the overall strategy of the organization. It is also important that you involve members of your team in the setting of goals to ensure buy-in.

In any process of change there should always be an overall plan, which once decided should be the blueprint for all actions. Just as an architect designs a house taking account of the need for foundations and a properly constructed internal structure, as well as interesting and innovative design features, so do the architects of change need to recognize the need for strong organization foundations and internal structures before embarking on the more innovative approaches to change.

The vision or goal should be very clearly articulated. It should be written in a very clear statement that you and the members of your team can identify with. A test of its validity is that when asked each and every employee can respond clearly to the statement.

People also need support to help them to embrace change; some will be resilient and able to cope, and others will be less prepared and less comfortable with change. Adhering to some simple principles can make the transition more successful.

Questions that you may want to consider

  • Do we always consider the bigger picture?

  • How often do we take time to think through projects properly?

  • Do we consider the following: the strategic implication, the people implication and the customer?

  • Do we use planning techniques? Do we undertake SWOT analyses (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)?

  • How creative are we? Are we hungry for information? Are we curious?

  • Are we always driven by unrealistic deadlines or do we build in contingency time that allows for reflection and consultation?

  • Do we tend to keep to the same pattern of working, or do we regularly explore new options?

Step 3: Identify the Key Stages on the Journey

As well as having an overall direction you have to identify the key steps that need to be met to achieve the overall goal. These should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed) and expressed in a language that everyone can identify with. Highlight the key steps but also try and think about each step in detail: think about what needs to happen, what could go wrong and how to deal with issues that might arise. Although traditional tools like SWOT analysis and SMART objectives have been around for a long time they are a good starting point. Have a project plan, and use all the available current project planning tools and techniques to ensure that you can constantly monitor and track where you are with each project. Hold everyone accountable for progress. These stages should be regularly reviewed so that progress can be measured.

Most organizations have a competency model, but the competencies should also include behaviours and emotional and social competencies such as those defined by Daniel Goleman. He defines five basic emotional and social competencies as follows: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills. As well as a focus on the practical skills and knowledge required to undertake roles, there should also be the encouragement of the development of behaviours designed to support personal and organizational growth. These can be simply expressed and measured, e.g. 'To enable us to meet our goal/ vision we need to be able to do the following...'

Remember to be creative, encourage people to share ideas, use different techniques to generate different approaches, make no assumptions about the way something has to be done and think about how it could be done differently.

It is also important to build in regular measurement of achievement. The measures of success should be clearly explained. This should build on the SMART objectives and be time-bound. 'By the end of three months, two weeks, one week we will have achieved the following...' Encourage people to goal-set on a daily and weekly basis. Use these measures regularly. Don't just set them and walk away; stay close; make them very visible.

Questions that you may want to consider

  • Where are we on the journey, individually, in our teams, within our organization?

  • Have we matched the competencies needed to the key stages?

  • Do we ask who, what, why, when, where and how when testing possible links, and considering all possible consequences of new product development and project management?

  • Do we use idea-generating techniques? Do we take time to identify what really inspires us?

  • How open are our minds? How often do we say, 'Why don't we try this?', rather than 'We've tried it before; it won't work'?

  • How effective are our processes? What could we do better?

Step 4: Gain Commitment From Others to the Common Goal

You need everyone to unite behind a common goal. However, you will also need to identify the people who are going to be most proactive; you do not need to call them champions, but in reality they will be the sponsors of the change. You need them at every level in the business from the very top to the newest recruit. They need quietly (and sometimes loudly!) to promote the changes that are required. They will be the people who can keep both themselves and others going when the change runs into difficulties, or when new solutions have to be developed. They will keep going when others say it cannot be achieved; they will be self-motivated, but able to motivate others to keep going. Others will be able to offer coaching support; build coaching in as a core competence.

Help teams to respect each other's strengths. As the period of change progresses you will need people with different preferences. Use profiles to identify team and individual strengths, and match the right people to the right tasks. Recognize the importance of behaviours: reinforce the positive behaviours and try to eliminate the negative behaviours. Encourage people to share feelings, and support those who are struggling. Recognize, however, that not everyone may be capable of handling the changes required: offer them support.

Questions that you may want to consider

  • Do we have commitment to the change at all levels in the organization?

  • Have we clearly communicated the vision and the stages on the journey?

  • Have we identified the key behaviours?

  • Are we building teams of people with different styles of thinking?

  • Do we take time to explore how we can work together?

  • Do we play to people's strengths?

  • Do we share ideas with others? Do we take advantage of global time-zones to work virtually in teams?

  • Have we established a coaching support infrastructure?

Step 5: Establish a Process to Learn and Grow

Once the change is initiated you want to build on and learn from the experience. Transforming performance does not require huge resources, but what it does need is often a change of mindset. People need to be prepared to learn from the experience, to share successes and to learn from the mistakes. All too often people move on to something new before reviewing the experience and sharing the lessons. Success can be celebrated at different stages depending on the size of the challenge. It is all too easy never to celebrate because the goal keeps moving. In reality most change processes take many years; therefore celebrating the small achievements is vital in order to keep individual motivation alive.

Questions that you may want to consider

  • How often do we review the decisions that we have made?

  • Do we allow time to review our assumptions before passing our conclusions or decisions on to others?

  • What do we have that works really well that could be adapted? What could we do more quickly? More efficiently?

  • When we are presented with a challenging situation, do we take time to explore the 'what if' and develop a plan for contingencies?

  • Do we develop a worst-case scenario and plan how we would deal with any issues that might arise?

  • Do we celebrate success, not just at the end, but the smaller achievements along the way?

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