I firmly believe that the right people, processes, and platforms together can accelerate a company’s growth and lead to ongoing innovation. I’m also fascinated by the wild card in the deck: people.
As I blogged recently, bright, courageous people are behind all business transformations – people like General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who has the difficult yet remarkable job of leading a 109-year-old brand into the age of autonomous vehicles and ride sharing; or Reed Hastings, who has transformed Netflix from a movie-rental service to a powerful content creator.
But to achieve great things, leaders at all levels of the organization must overcome distinctly human obstacles, such as other people who feel threatened by change, which is why people are the wild card. You cannot manage people like you can a process or a platform, and a person’s essential humanity makes change both possible and sometimes difficult.
One of the traits that people need to come to grips with is fear. In his report The Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto, Brian Solis discusses fear as one of the principal factors that can hold back a company’s change agents from flourishing. Solis writes,
Some reluctant change agents are either too scared to rock the boat or don’t feel it’s their place to bring forth bold ideas. In fact, the fear that they will fail to rally support for their ideas often keeps them from even trying. But change agents must take confidence in their digital expertise and learn to speak with authority.
At Moonshot, we work with change agents all the time. And I can attest to what Brian Solis says. I definitely encounter people who fear change – change that comes with leading your company into creating voice-based products, experimenting with immersive reality, or adopting artificial intelligence. After all, we’re talking about risk as well as reward.
My colleague Jose Martinez recently discussed in Forbes the importance of change agents embracing that fear. “You should feel a little fear,” Jose wrote. “Fear means that you’re exploring something new, pushing boundaries and unlocking potentially new ways to fuel your business growth. Fear is your affirmation.”
Jose goes on to discuss how a change agent can embrace fear by defining a fact-based strategy for change (because fear feeds off a knowledge vacuum); always learning; and employing a repeatable process such as the design sprint to increase certainty of success when you apply new ideas.
For example, a design sprint gives a team of change agents a tool for quickly testing and learning new ideas vetted against customer feedback. The outcome of a design sprint is a prototype that the company further develops into a real product. The design sprint is not only a useful process for developing a lovable product, but it also helps a team manage fear by increasing certainty and building confidence through testing.
I agree with Jose. Fear is your affirmation. And you can manage that fear in number of different ways, too. In addition to what Jose wrote, I’d also cite tools – tools that help people monitor their progress when they undertake a change effort, and tools that empower people to identify and manage stumbling blocks to change such as fear.
For example, at Moonshot we use a tool called the Continuous Velocity Team Maturity Dashboard to help change agents monitor the progress of a change effort. This tool monitors a team’s progress in adopting the new ways of working associated with a transformational initiative, such as customer centricity, prioritization, measurement, and culture. Leadership as well as individual contributors help create the dashboard to provide an honest assessment of the team feels about the change effort.
The dashboard gives Moonshot and our clients a common ground as we meet weekly to assess how things are going. And I cannot emphasize enough the importance of scheduled check-ins. They give a team leader a chance to flag any concerns and fears privately and in a judgment-free zone. From there, the change agent can make a course correction.
The dashboard provides one other important antidote to fear: knowledge. As Jose pointed out, a fact-based strategy is one way to embrace fear of new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality. A dashboard then keeps a digital change agent informed during implementation of the strategy.
Fear is natural. Fear is what makes us human. Both self-awareness and knowledge are the antidotes. To learn more about how to manage change with new technologies and experiences, contact Moonshot.