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Whenever I’m a participant in a training session or conference, I always walk away with more ideas than I have time. So, it’s important for me to prioritize which ideas I want to start right away and those I will want to implement later. I like using a SMART plan to do this.
Those of you who regularly read HR Bartender know that I love SMART plans. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Responsible, and Time-Bound. It’s a great way for me to stay focused when I’m implementing a new idea or program. Not only do I use it when I’m working on new ideas, I also like sharing it when I conduct training, so others know how to process the information they’ve learned.
The other thing that I try to remember when I’m implementing something new is that it takes time to become proficient and comfortable. There are very few things that we will be fantastic and perfect at from the start. Several years ago, I learned a four-step process for incorporating new items into my routine. This is another one of those models that I try to share with others when I’m conducting training, so participants realize it’s okay to do something badly (at first).
AWARENESS. During this phase, we realize that we need to make a change. It could be because the current situation isn’t working. For example, we know that we have to address a performance issue with an employee. Or maybe we know that we need to change because in the future this new idea will be the norm. An example might be a new technology. Regardless of the reason, we are aware that change is necessary.
AWKWARDNESS. If you’re familiar with Lewin’s Change Management Model (another one of my favorites), then I like to think of this as the “unfreeze” step. This is where we start working toward change. It will feel uncomfortable. We might make some mistakes. There could be some setbacks. But that’s all a normal part of the change process. I’m not suggesting this is a justification for not working hard or for double-checking your work. But it’s okay to experience the awkwardness of change.
SKILLFULNESS. At some point, all of our focus and hard work will pay off. If we’ve been struggling to address performance issues with employees, we start to find the words that work for us. If we’ve been frustrated with a new technology, we start thinking like the software and getting stuff done. The awkwardness turns to skillfulness. The uncomfortable becomes comfortable. We’ve turned the corner in the change process.
INTEGRATION. Lastly, the change becomes a part of our new normal. Again, if we look at Lewin’s Change Management Model, we might call this the “refreeze” step. The change has been made and it’s integrated into our routine. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re done with change forever. It’s only until we’re made aware of the next necessary change. I think it’s important during the integration phase that we take time to celebrate our successes and debrief for future changes.
The reason I like to share awareness, awkwardness, skillfulness, and integration as a change management process is because, hopefully, it helps people realize that it’s okay to stumble in the learning process. I’m reminded of well-known business leaders like Sara Blakely and Sir Richard Branson who have openly shared their failures on the path to their success.
Yes, we do need to get things right. And we need to focus. We can also learn from our mistakes along the way. We can do things at less than 100% and still achieve results. Then use our energies to get even better.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in Washington, DC
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