Change initiatives bring out the best - and worst - in all of us. From senior leaders to front line staff. What others need from us to make their transition successful is often very different from what we would naturally do ourselves.
We see this disconnect played out in political tugs or war all the time. One party says the path to economic stability is to curb spending, while the opposition insists that ramping up government-funded programs is the way to stabilize the economy and raise the standard of living for the poor.
Dimensions of Diversity (those differentiators that separate individuals, groups and whole companies) are the Achilles heel of change initiatives, and need to be fully understood and respected for their ability to derail an otherwise workable transition. A few of the most common Dimensions of Diversity are:
Values: What do you believe? What are your non-negotiables, those parts of the plan that you just have to have in order to put your whole heart behind it? Do you know what they are...have you told anyone yet? If individual values are not shared by the entire group, or are not taken into account during change initiatives, the effects can be disastrous.
Vision: There is always a "Big V" vision (those well-crafted statements of intention selected by a chosen few) and the hundreds of "little v" visions (how each and every person sees themselves fitting - or not - into the new plan) at work in every new initiative. These hundreds of individual visions need to be considered when crafting the "Big V" vision or the initiative could lose focus.
Competencies: Risk tolerance disparities and other change skills can differ greatly among key stakeholders. Some people look for ways to step into change in every new situation...others scan their horizons for the next sure thing. There are those employees who have been thorough a significant change in the past and have the necessary skills.
Attitudes: Often in a transition you have Resisters working alongside Change Champions. These two types of approach can come into conflict when the do-ability of a change is being debated. A person's mindset is a powerful predictor of how they will deal with the tougher parts of the change and find solutions that allow them to move forward.
Personal Style: Thinking and responding times colliding. Vive ladifférence sounds great until you find yourself toe-to-toe with another person or group that is "ready" to make a move before you are, or when you're the one that has your finger on the trigger while your team runsfor cover. In my experience, personal style accounts for the greatest percentage of stalled and/or failed change efforts. When we get it right, it's a beautiful thing...when we fail to factor in this dimension of diversity...we're finished.
The first step in leveraging differences is to make the unknown known. Speak it, share it, and make it visible. Make room and opportunities for people, at all levels of the organization, to declare their perspectives and preferred approaches to the change - then make the plan fit the folks!
By making differences transparent, everyone has the opportunity to meet the needs and adjust to the styles of others. When push comes to shove, as it often does in the throes of intense change, understanding each other is Job #1.