How to move your team from current to desired state

Driving change is anything but easy.

Whether your company is going through a re-org, speeding up adoption of a new process, or looking to create a culture of innovation, change always creates conflict.

The most significant tension is the Current-Desired state divide.

Regardless if you are a CEO, manager or team member, the ‘Change Gap’ is taking a toll on you.

Not doing anything about it, won’t help anyone. Trying to bridge the gap too fast can make things even worse.

Let me explain why.

Why Change Fails (And What to Do About It)

Driving change is at the top of any CEO’s agenda.

Finding new sources of growth, driving innovation, managing regulatory changes and developing a disruption economy-ready workforce, are CEO’s top priorities.

75% of change initiatives fail, according to McKinsey. The same old change management approach is not working.

Before we discuss a new model, let’s understand how human nature gets in the way of effective change management. There are nine insights as explained in McKinsey’s “The irrational side of change management.” Here are the ones that resonated with me:

  • What motivates leaders doesn’t drive most of their employees.
  • Leaders mistakenly believe that role modeling is enough to persuade others.
  • The process and the outcome have got to be fair (aligned with employees’ values).
  • Employees are what they think, feel, and believe in, not what the leader thinks, feels, and believes in.
  • Good intentions aren’t enough. Organizations need to create the space for employees to develop new skills and experiment “the new ways.”

To move your team from the current to desired state requires more than a gap analysis. It demands to revisit your assumptions about ‘change.’

  1. Change cannot be managed: People are out of your control. The world is neither logical neither predictable. Change is a personal decision
  2. People are not objective: Both employees and leaders operate driven by emotions and beliefs. And, as pointed previously, how both sides see the world collapses.
  3. Level set the starting point: Not everyone starts from the same place or at the same time. Mind the gap: leaders start thinking about a new idea months before employees are informed.
  4. Change requires new mindsets: The adoption of new systems or process is anything but functional. To turn someone into a Formula 1 driver demands more than just giving them the right car, as I wrote here.
  5. Making adjustments goes both ways: The approach where someone sets the vision and expects others to follow doesn’t work anymore. A more collaborative process is required where employees’ input creates adjustments across iterations.
  6. New doesn’t always mean better: What seems better for a leader might not feel the same for employees. You can’t drive their interest without first answering ”what’s in it for me?”

Solving the ‘Change Gap’ demands a profound understanding of the human factor.

A Human-Centered Approach to Change

That’s precisely why we’ve started Liberationist, Change Behavior.

To ignite and accelerate organizational change with a human-centered approach. And solve the root cause of what’s blocking or slowing change down. Not just the symptoms.

Following are our five principles inspired the Change Gap Canvas.

1. Bring a personal development approach to the workplace:

We want to break the barrier between the personal and professional self. Everything we do is part of who we are. Our job, hobbies, and everything we do feed off of each other.

Organizations don’t change — people do. Organizational change is a byproduct of individual behavior change.

How people deal with change at work is driven by their inner lives. Beliefs, emotions, values, and fears affect their behaviors. It’s impossible to promote change-openness if we don’t address their risk tolerance at a personal level.

2. Apply a human-centered method to driving change:

Design Thinking or similar methods helps resolve problems based on a deep understanding of the user. In the case of organizational change, the ‘user’ notion applies to employees, manager, senior leaders, and stakeholders.

We utilize the principles of empathy to reframe the change-driven tension through the eyes of the ‘user.” Are we solving the right problem?

Effective change is not about silver bullets but about continually learning, adapting, and improving the solution.

Our approach builds on the principles of Agile and other innovation methods that promotes prototyping and testing as a way to develop the solution through various iterations.

3. Prioritize depth of adoption versus breadth:

Getting the entire organization to rally behind something is impossible. But also a waste of efforts and time. As I like to tell my clients: “It’s better to have 10% of your team 100% convinced than 100% of the team only 10% convinced.”

Start one team at a time. If you change a team, you can change the entire organization.

Driving advocacy is critical: early adopters can help you scale the initiative but also turn into a collective one. The chances of adoption increase when new projects are not attached to the leader.

4. Change openness is the result of preparation:

Don’t limit your challenge, challenge your limits. Our brain is lazy by default that’s why we resist changing behaviors or exercising. But we can prepare our teams to be more open to change, as I explain in my book ‘Stretch for Change.’ To improve their change-fitness.

You cannot turn a risk-averse culture into an innovative one overnight. It’s like expecting someone who is in bad shape to run a marathon.

Prepare the culture before you launch. Don’t expect your team to become more agile without proper preparation.

5. Equip people to outsmart us, not to depend on us:

Most consultants business models are built on dependency. By getting companies hooked to expensive measuring tools, overcomplicating problems, and turning every need into an annual engagement, consultants benefit from the addiction they promote.

Like a sports coach, we prepare and challenge people so that they can play at their best. On their own terms.

We purposefully want to focus on building capacity and experimentation.To help organizations bridge the ‘Change Gap,’ not to solve it for them.

We created a framework to help organizations:

… align the perceptions of those driving change and the ones who have to adopt change

… build a journey to move from the ‘current state’ to the ‘desired state’

… solve the root problem not just tackle resistance symptoms

… reframe mindsets and emotions to build a culture of change

That’s why we came up with the Change Gap Canvas.

Understanding the Real Change Gap

After various iterations, and learnings, it’s time to make it public and get more insights from other curious minds.

The initial approach was developed based — like any effective solution — on a conversation with a customer.

“How do I engage with you guys?” — A CEO once asked me. He was going through a re-org, have heard about us from a colleague, and wanted to hire us.

But his question sounded to me like more than just transactional. This executive — currently a client — wanted to solve change-driven tensions in his organization. But he lacked a way of articulating the problem in a clear and meaningful way.

That triggered the idea of the ‘Change Gap’ canvas.

How can we create a tool that helps capture the change-driven tensions in an organization? But, most importantly, to help us what’s creating the gap and redefine the real change-driven problem we must solve.

Before we dive into the canvas itself, let me share the overall process to leading change. We have applied it to both personal and professional transformation projects.

On this post, I will focus on the business application.

The process covers three key phases:

  • Understand the ‘change gap’
  • Explore possible solutions
  • Implement solutions at a small and then large scale.

Though it’s a continuous cycle, it doesn’t mean you have to start from the beginning. It depends on your organization’s specific challenge.

“Clarity = Speed.” — Ken Perlman

  1. Assessment: The Change Canvas tool is specifically designed to define and understand what the tensions are. Most importantly, the different expectations and beliefs that are creating a divide. Rather than thinking of others as opposition, realize that everyone sees the problem through different eyes. And a different starting point too.
  2. Empathize: This will help leaders understand the real challenge they have to solve, but also how to better connect with his team. It also helps employees better understand how leaders think too. Empathizing helps validate hypotheses and also drives better understanding among different players.
  3. Reframe: Revisiting the original problem through the empathy lens helps better understand the ‘Change Gap’ and reframe it into a meaningful one. To move beyond the obvious and symptoms, and focus on what’s really slowing change down.
  4. Minimum Viable Change (MVC): At this point, I think we agree that driving change requires experimentation rather than a step-by-step plan. An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. We encourage organizations to borrow a startup mindset and launch a MVC rather than trying to change everything overnight. What’s the small dose of change that we promote that will create impact but also help us learn?
  5. Test & Test & Learn: Building on the above rather than building a 3-year plan to drive change, we recommend small changes that will help you achieve your 3-year goals. Implement alternatives versus just one option.
  6. Nail It and then Scale It: Moving fast is critical to succeed in the disruption economy. But accelerating change in the wrong direction can be too expensive. Once you are getting learning, make tweaks, and perfect the approach. Part of ‘nailing it’ includes having advocates that will help drive scale too.
  7. Reassess: Start all over again. Change never ends. It’s a continuous cycle. Most importantly, as we like to say in the innovation world, the solution to a problem creates a new problem.

What’s the new change-driven tension that’s creating a gap in your organization?

Meet the Change Gap Canvas

The purpose of this tool is to help you assess and understand the gap between your Current and Desired State. It’s not just descriptive but analytical.

In our experience, it has helped improve both communication and collaboration by de-dramatizing change.

The “Change Gap” is created mostly by misunderstandings.

Take this stat as an example: only 29% of employees can correctly identify their company’s strategy. That means most people are misaligned because they don’t know, not because they don’t want.

Another misunderstanding is the notion of opposition. Believing that people either with or against the leader, is something that broadens the divide.

People don’t resist change on purpose. Sometimes is out of personal reasons as I explained before. But, most importantly, they don’t want to be changed by others.

Real and effective change happens from within. Leaders need to prepare, inspire, and provide the space needed for people to change. Not just push them too.

The ‘Change Gap’ canvas illustrates the divide. Some people are ahead, and others are behind. That doesn’t mean that one group is right and the other is wrong.

Rather than fight (or ignore) the divide, what is it telling about your organization? What can you learn from it?

Unlike other tools that approach change as one-size fits all, we believe that is critical to identify the tensions affecting each group. And avoid the “them” versus “us” divide.

Remember that the starting point is not the same for everyone.

Leaders and early adopters tend to be more optimistic. And are driven by expectations (how things ‘should’ be). Those lagging or resisting change prioritize their beliefs (how things ‘have been’) over the vision.

As you can see, both sides out of perceptions, not reality.

Based on their biased perspective, both sides suffer from frustrations, ignorance, and lack of recognition.

Once you have a clear assessment, you can generate possible hypotheses that could be driving the gap.

This tool helps clients perform an initial assessment of what needs to be solved. Though some clients ask that we coach them apply the canvas, I want to share the basic instructions so you can try it on your own.

How to Use the Change Gap Canvas

First, choose one specific change initiative you want to solve. Focusing helps achieve faster results.

This might sound obvious, but it’s critical for success. Lack of focuses drives failure. By trying to address several change initiatives at a time they get people confused. And don’t achieve any progress at all.

1. Current State & Desired State:

Capture the current and desired state in one sentence. Keeping it short will help you remove details and distractions. Use the words of the change agent or leader. We want to identify with their perception and feelings.

2. The Change Gap

Underneath the bridge sign, recognize what’s the real tension or gap. In most of the cases, the change gap is driven by one of the following:

  • New Direction: where we want to take the organization (Vision, identity, purpose, new business model or structure, etc.)
  • Speed: how fast we think and act (decision making, go to market, implementation, etc.)
  • Accountability: clear distribution of roles and authority (who does what, who’s the end decision maker, who makes the call, etc.
  • Processes: an agreed way of collaborating (how we do things, tools we use, etc.)
  • Quality: a shared standard of what makes the team proud (quality of the work, service and interpersonal relationships, talent assessment, etc.)

The Change Gap is the starting point. It captures the most significant tension that’s not allowing the team to reach the desired state. Bridging the gap is a collective responsibility: everyone needs to move beyond ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ or ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong.’

3. Who’s behind?

Identify those who are lagging adoption or merely resisting the change initiative.

Creating a ‘persona’ makes it less personal. You are designing a change strategy, think of ‘laggers’ as the users. Give them a name, a job title, capture their goals and values.

4. What are the beliefs?

The mindset is how your persona sees the world. You must dig deeper to empathize with this group and learn to see the world through their lenses.

Change puts collective and individual identities at risk. By promoting new behaviors or processes some individuals feel that what them, and their work, stood for no longer makes sense. Before you become defensive too, learn to walk in their shoes.

Also, discriminate the objective risks from the real ones. Are there communication issues getting in the way? Are emotions blinding the team?

5. How do tensions manifest themselves?

Once you’ve captured the mindset, focus on the thoughts, feelings, words and behaviors that bring the tensions to life.

Do these manifest regularly or are there simple reactions to specific stimulus? Understanding rituals, and words used is essential to compare them to those of the leaders. Communication drives one of the most obvious change gaps. Everyone thinks they are clear, but the other side listens to a different story.

6. Who’s ahead?

Same as for those who are behind but focusing on the ones who are either driving the initiative or have already adopted it.

7. What are the expectations?

The same way beliefs get laggers stuck; expectations make those who are ahead blind or deaf.

Leaders see differently. They visualize their dreams materialized even before the construction has started. They tend to anticipate or be too optimistic creating a divide with the mundane perspective of those who are in the trenches.

8. How do tensions manifest themselves?

Same exercise as you did for current state but, in this case, from the perspective of those who are ahead.

9. Tensions & Hypothesis:

Once you completed the whole canvas, spend some time comparing both sides. Look for commonalities but, most importantly, identify contradictions, tensions or surprises.

Ideate. Craft some hypothesis. Find insights to better understand what’s going on.

These hypotheses will be the starting point for doing empathy research with employees, leaders, manager, and stakeholders.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A HIGH-RES VERSION OF THE CANVAS

10. Reframe the Real Change Gap

This template will help you capture your findings in a simple way.

Space is limited on purpose. Focus on what’s critical.

The ‘Change Gap Statement’ will guide the Empathy Research. Once revisited the tension through the eyes of the ‘user’ we will write a new version of ‘Change Gap Statement’.

This will be the definite, reframed one, that will inform the ‘Minimum Viable Change’ (MVP).

DOWNLOAD CHANGE STATEMENT TOOL

Recapping

Change is not easy. And far from being perfect.

The Change Gap is driven by the divide between individual and collective perspectives and between the Current and Desired states.

Rather than fighting that gap, a human-centric approach is needed to understand the real tension and develop a common solution where both leaders and employees adjust behaviors.

Real change happens from within. People don’t want to be changed.

The “Change Gap’ Canvas helps understand the root cause of the problem and focus efforts with a more experimental mindset: test and iterate.

Before You Leave

Do you want to learn more about how to overcome the “Change Gap?

Join our free Online Training Roundtable (OTR): “The Change Gap Canvas:
​​​​​​​How to move your organization from current to desired state.”

Or reach out with any questions: [email protected]


The Change Gap Canvas was originally published in Stretch for Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.