Week 17- Collaboration isn’t always the answer

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Complex change

I am in the middle of a complex change which impacts processes, quality standards, measures of success, the technology we use to deliver the services and the services we deliver to customers. We are also targeting new stakeholders and letting other stakeholders fade away as we exit some markets.

Each of these shifts in how we do things is an agile change because we are delivering them incrementally, with a review at the end of each increment to work out the knock-on effects between each of the workstreams. It is too complex to plan in detail up front, and we are constantly experimenting to achieve our vision.

Creating the capacity for change

I often talk about the importance of streamlining our workloads before we get started on a change of this scale so that we have the capacity to participate in the change.

Talking to a colleague the other day, we realised that another way we boost our capacity to cope with the change and therefore increase our resilience is to streamline who we work with.

This might sound counterintuitive as it is the opposite of collaboration. We know that being with others during times of stress can give us emotional support and enable us to overcome our challenges as they suggest different perspectives and new ideas that enable us to find solutions to the blockers preventing us from changing.

I am proposing that sometimes there is another way, that instead we reduce the number of people we engage with during the transition.

How to streamline my stakeholders

First, I have done my analysis and identified two groups:

  1. Those stakeholders that are themselves directly impacted by the new ways of working, as those are critical to my ability to change how I work.
  2. There are a lot of colleagues and connections in other organisations that are the recipients of my work or provide me with important inputs but don’t need to change how they work.

For this second group, I have explained that as I am shifting how I work and creating new routines and new priorities, I am going to go quiet for a few weeks.

I have agreed with each of them a time when I will be back in contact and can resume more communication, but for now, I am restricting my engagement to those that hold a piece of the puzzle so that together we can create the new picture of how we work.

Benefits of streamlining my stakeholders

My approach minimises the chaos and confusion – I don’t yet understand how I am going to work, and from week-to-week things are changing. I cannot communicate effectively with others if I don’t know what I need to say, so restricting who I engage with minimises the chaos and confusion.

The fewer people I need to engage with, the more time I have for myself – I have the time to work out my own story:

  • Defining my new priorities
  • Working out when I do things
  • Identifying my new responsibilities and what I am no longer responsible for
  • Designing new ways of working

Feeling assaulted by every new aspect of the change; feeling very uncertain about what is going to happen next; feeling I don’t have control over my work; feeling fearful about my ability to process all the new information that comes my way – these are all the reasons I feel negative about the change.

It is the creation of space/mental capacity to think through the change, get used to it for myself and understand what my new norms are that generate a more positive feeling about the change. It is this positivity that I can then communicate to others.