Recap and Review

For the last five weeks, I have worked through each of the five elements that are necessary in order to manage a system of complex change.  Our lives are an inter-connected web of systems change, and it can be overwhelming, burdensome, and damn frustrating.  However, it can be it can also be equally (if not more) rewarding, satisfying, and exciting.

At its core, the root of change is that we want to reach a specific result that we feel will position ourselves better in the future than where we presently stand.  It (change) is a goal that we strive to achieve, and must strategically pursue if we are to arrive at the vision we have in mind.  By navigating the proper channels, it is possible to implement and drive a culture of change and an environment of positivity.

People and organizations that understand the importance of not just changing, but managing change, recognize the importance of the five elements responsible for the most successful systems of systematic change and transformation.  So, let’s take a moment to review the systems change equation, each of the five concepts, and the result when each is missing.

Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Change

  1. Vision – Sometimesdefined as ‘the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be’.  That which will or may come true is the vision, and arriving there is the result of taking action and working with the end in mind.

_______ + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Confusion 

  1. Skills – A skill is a particular ability; or a state of doing something well; having expertise.  It is a characteristic that allows you to excel or perform at a certain level in order to complete a given task.

          Vision + ______ + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Anxiety

  1. Incentives – The incentive component of managing complex change is the thing that motivates or encourages one to do something. An incentive can be internal or external in nature.

          Vision + Skills + ___________ + Resources + Action Plan = Resistance

  1. Resources – They are what you have available and ready to use in conjunction with your skills. The two types of resources are human and capital.

          Vision + Skills + Incentives + _________ + Action Plan = Frustration 

  1. Action Plan – An action plan isn’t just a step-by-step diagram that outlines the exact order in which things must be accomplished.  It is the framework from which you can build, implement, and drive change.

          Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + __________ = False Starts

 Managing a System of Complex Change is Similar to Following Your Favorite Recipe

changeI have spent some time thinking about the best way to draw in all of the material from recent weeks in a cohesive manner.  Previously, I have used the football analogy to compare what it’s like to develop an action plan and the human-capital resources continuum to discuss resources.

However, when trying to mesh five different elements of equal value, it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to make sense of it all.

So, being someone who loves to cook, it came to mind that the process for managing a system of complex change is similar to that of following your favorite recipe.

I won’t bore you with describing what this meal looks like for me, however, I’m sure you could quickly think what the perfect dish is for your taste and liking.  And so… the process begins.

First, you begin by thinking about what it is that you would like to have to eat.  This would be much different than what you currently have or else you would already have it.  This image becomes embedded in your head and serves as the vision for what you will work towards.

Next, you ponder what skills will be required of you to follow the recipe in order to achieve the vision you have in mind.  At the very least, it will require you to read (hard skill) directions and to understand food measurements.  Is the recipe also going to require, cutting, paring, searing, chopping, dicing, cubing or any other action (soft skill)?  Are the required skills within your wheelhouse, or will you need to recruit someone to help you in the preparation and cooking process?

Then, based on your initial vision and the skills required to reach that vision (and eat a tasty meal), you will decide if there is enough incentive to move forward beyond step two.  Not only is it attainable (based on available skills), but is it worth the time investment (and effort) that you are willing to put forth?  If the recipe requires 2 hours of prep work and you only have 90 minutes available, then is it okay to rush through and risk missing a crucial step, or is it time to re-visit the drawing board?

Once you determine that the incentive is enough to move forward, then you will consider what resources you have available.  Do you have all of the ingredients in order to follow the recipe properly?  Would a small variation make a difference?  Did you choose a fancy dish that requires expensive ingredients, and are you willing to pay for them? Are all the resources you need readily available in the kitchen, or will you need to knock on the neighbor’s door and ask for a couple of eggs?

At this point in time, it’s completely okay to re-evaluate and determine if the path you are on is still the path you want to continue walking down.  If you’ve made it this far, then it is likely that variables have changed, skills have been refined, and resources have shifted.  Hell, your vision might even be wondering towards something different.

Now, you have one of two options in moving forward:

  1. Create a new vision for tomorrow’s dinner
  2. Develop an action plan for creating tomorrow’s dinner

Assuming you want to continue with the original idea (recipe), then you have reached the point in time where it’s necessary to create an action plan – the order of events for reaching your final destination (your plate with a fork and knife!).

From action plan to plate, this is your time to manage a system of change.  This is the time when you work and transition from your current state, to something much different.

Setting in Motion

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. –Lao Tzu

I have made reference to this quote in past posts, and it continues to ring true for this topic today.  Managing complex change systems is more than working through an action plan.  It is damned hard, whether you’re on the receiving end (working through change) or the leading end (driving the change).

It won’t always operate smoothly.

It won’t always turn out as you would like.

It won’t always meet the needs of everyone (but should strive to do so).

It won’t always happen quickly.

It won’t always happen slowly.

As a result, it’s important to understand, like many other processes, this is a journey.  With any journey, those people and organizations who find the importance in ‘now’, will likely be the same people and companies that reach a bigger vision ‘later’.

So, putting the change into motion requires taking the first step.  And with each step that follows, the process should be managed with special attention given to the five elements of which it is comprises – vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan.

The ability to manage these characteristics will help contribute to an equation where the answer is change.  However, when special attention is missing to any one of these ideas, then you and your team will be left with confusion, anxiety, resistance, frustration, and false starts (moving before you are ready).

It’s a matter of answering ‘yes or no’ to the following questions:

  • Do you want to manage (or be a part of) change so that you and those you are surrounded by feel valued, and genuinely want to grow and develop with you to achieve a vision and purpose?


  • Do you want to let change grab you by the horns (instead of you grabbing it), and let it steer you where it wants, giving you and everyone around you a helluva ride – one that will leave you walking away discontented?

So, reflect back on that delicious meal you were in the process of repairing.  How did it turn out?  Assuming you followed the instructions as closely as you could, then the probability is high that it tastes close to what you imagined.  Or, did you skip a couple steps, forget what the vision was you had in mind, or cut some corners because you didn’t have the skills and resources to follow through?

At the end of the day, you will look at the product of a change system and say either, ‘Wow, that was hard work and the result is incredible’, or, ‘I (we) could have done so much better and it all turned to shit.’

Manage the change properly, and I would reckon which statement you’ll be repeating.

5 Comments on “Managing Complex Change: Summary and Review

  1. Pingback: To Continue to Grow, You Must Continue to Commit | Building United

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