Every Big Change Needs a Roadmap


Exclamation maze

The best way to successfully get from here to there is to know where “there” is, to prepare for and plan the journey, and to get on the road while anticipating you may encounter delays and detours along the way.

Your change journey is the same. While every change is different, there exists a universal set of patterns underlying change that allows us to remove a great deal of the mystery, and significantly increase the probability of success.

This post addresses the high-level roadmap that I apply to every change journey; the next five posts will go into more detail on each leg of the trip.

(I should begin by noting that while I call the elements out as separate, they are highly inter-connected; depending on the specific change, there will be times that you may be working on one, two, or more of them simultaneously.)

Every major change is a hero’s journey; as a change mentor, coach, and consultant, my role is to guide others on that journey. In order to do so, I have developed a model that is based on Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” There are five modules to the model, five legs to the journey.

  • Create the change story
  • Prepare for the change (when working with organizations with large changes, this gets broken down into “prepare the leaders” and “prepare the organization”)
  • Plan the change
  • Take the change journey
  • Live the new reality

Create the Change Story

Major change is not an intellectual exercise. Really big “good ideas” may be enough to launch a change; they aren’t enough to see it through to a successful conclusion. It’s likely that you have launched–and failed to fully deliver on–great ideas in the past; I certainly have.

Creating the change story is a way to help move past this challenge. The process begins by ensuring that the change itself is not just a good idea, that it is in fact an imperative. The story itself comes not only from the head, it comes from the heart and the gut. It serves as a guide for planning and preparing, and as a catalyst throughout the journey.

Prepare for the Change

Going on a road trip is risky without adequate preparation. You may take the car in for a tune-up. The gas tank gets topped off. Suitcases or backpacks are filled. Snacks are prepared; the cooler is stocked.

A major change journey requires preparations as well. Just as with a road trip, the preparations and the planning are highly inter-related. What (and who) are you taking with you? What (and who) are you leaving behind? What will you need along the way, when do you need it, and how will you get it?

Some of your most difficult decisions are made during the preparations…Failure to make them at this point can significantly inhibit both your planning and your execution.

Plan the Journey

When you plan a vacation, it is likely that you select a time, a destination, and a mode of transportation. You determine who is going along, and make your reservations. There is a lot of talk about how badly the vacation is needed, and how good it will be to “get away.” Yet all too often, what is forgotten is planning to let go of all those things that we are trying to “get away” from. We liberally distribute our contact information before leaving; once we arrive, we are posting to Facebook, and reading every message in any format from anyone as soon as it appears on our mobile device. We plan to successfully arrive at the destination, but fail to address how we are going to achieve the anticipated benefits of being there.

Planning the change journey is the same thing. It’s not just about the things you need to put in place to get from Point A to Point B. It’s also about all the things that you need to put in place so that you arrive at Point B with the skills and mental attitude that is required to truly derive the full benefit of the journey.

Take the Change Journey

No matter how clear the destination is in your mind; no matter how well you have prepared; and no matter how well you have planned, if this is a really significant change, you are most likely still in the honeymoon phase. You don’t know what you don’t know. There will be surprises; there will be mistakes; there will be major obstacles and/or detours; there will be resistance. (Yes, you will probably start fighting this change, even if you are the one who set it in motion!)

When it comes to big change, it is never a truly smooth ride.

Live the New Reality

If you’ve done it all right (which means that you have overcome the surprises, rebounded from the mistakes, moved beyond the obstacles and detours, and worked through the resistance), the time will come when your change journey is done. You get to celebrate, rest, and reflect. Soon enough it will be time to create the next change story.

How does this align with your own change journeys? Can you see them following this roadmap? Comment below.

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