Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Part 3: Re-inventing your career using Change Management Best Practices – Overcoming the barriers
November 25, 2009, 10:52 pm
Filed under: - People Change Management, - Professional Development | Tags: ,

Okay, so now we understand the emotional roller coaster of change (Part 1), and we put together a Change Plan (Part 2) to get us energized. That sounded great.  So what holds us back? Why don’t we make smooth and fast progress? 

Well, putting aside personal capabilities and the job market (certainly not inconsequential), we procrastinate – right? Well, it’s natural inertia at work.  There are also, potentially, other factors at work.  

In “It Starts with One” (1) Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen explore the “mental maps” that stand in our way of unleashing the power “to deliver superior, sustained strategic change”.  It’s good stuff.  They have a model that looks at the three barriers to progress: “failure to see”, “failure to move” and “failure to finish”.  Sound familiar?  Understanding these, and other, natural hurdles enlighten us as to how to overcome them.

One of the first hurdles is the “I get it trap” – the notion that we already know or understand something; have tried it or have a solution that we are just not quite ready to pull the trigger on. Dr. Phil has a nifty colloquialism to challenge this mindset: “How’s that workin’ for ya?”.  Usually this little review generates a pause as we reconsider – and the, now self-evident, answer is “not so well”.  So, don’t duck, dodge, procrastinate or click away. Instead, with an open mind consider transforming ourselves is a project – it is work and we will need to do something different if we want a different result. 

Can you see it? “Failure to See”

The first hurdle that Black and Gregersen note is “Failure to See”.  In the case of personal transformation this means “Do you really know what you want?”, “Do you accurately and fully comprehend your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and clearly see how you want to fit them into the current job market”, “Do you have a clear vision of the desired end state?”.  Often the answer to this is “sort of”.  Well, we might have a range of possibilities in mind.  The more focused the vision, the narrower the range then the more specific your actions can be.

Consider writing out your Personal Objectives for a 3-year horizon.  This can be a draft, a work in progress, modified as the desired end state becomes more clear. It becomes a manifestation of your vision. 

Are you moving towards your vision? “Failure to Move”

So once we have a clear picture of our future, why do we hesitate?  Seriously, reflecting deeply on this will liberate us.  Several possibilities:

  • Too busy, too tired:  Make room in your schedule by eliminating or postponing other activities. To a degree it is about priorities.
  • Too expensive, other responsibilities: Can you eke out a little space, a course or a couple of hours with a Coach perhaps? Inching towards the goal is still progress.
  • Fear of inadequacy: be brave, we all experience it. But resist this. It is part of the journey to go from doing the now ‘wrong’ thing very well to doing the new ‘right’ thing poorly, to doing the new ‘right’ thing brilliantly.  There is no way around it, only through it.
    • Do a Gap analysis (i.e. what skills will I need, which do I have, what do I need to work on?). Begin filling the gaps.
    • Find great mentors – many successful people enjoy sharing their knowledge – it is a mutually rewarding relationship
    • Become a “student” of your goal – if it is Enterprise Architecture then read everything you can find, find courses, find seminars, find Associations, find Groups on LinkedIn.  There are dozens of opportunities.
    • Find ‘safe’ places to practice, e.g. volunteering for non-profit organizations that can benefits from the base that you create. Take some measured risks.

 Are you there yet? “Failure to Finish”

So we start this project, personal transformation, and we struggle.  Perhaps it is not the first attempt or perhaps it seems too big, too impossible, and we pause.

It’s important to remember that a moment’s reaction is a part of a larger context.  Reinventing oneself is not a weekend project perhaps not even a seminar or semester project.  Progress will take time and we may not always control the pace.  We will get tired and frustrated.  The challenges may seem intimidating at times. Two concepts can help us here:

1. Expect to “get tired”.  Change is difficult.  There will be times when the irritations of the status quo pale in comparisons to the frustrations of change.  It may seem easier to stop or to step back to a lesser goal.  What to do? Sometimes we need to push through and sometimes we need a break. Consider the timing and, if “life” permits, schedule a pick-up date.  You might benefit from a review of your Personal Objectives or a word with your mentor. 

2. Sometimes we “get lost” – lose track of where we are in our journey.  Look back and consider what you have accomplished:

  • Have you created a clear and compelling vision? Do you know what you want?
  • Do you have a plan for development (however general)?
  • Have you researched the requirements of the new career?
  • Have you done a gap analysis?
  • Have you networked and met people in the roles on the promotion ladder?
  • Are you developing relationships with mentors?
  • Have you taken any relevant training (including online seminars)?

Remember that your transformation is a journey – track your progress and celebrate your accomplishments.  This is not inconsequential.  Successes along the way fuel next steps. 

Anticipate that there will be set-backs and delays.  Change usually takes longer and more effort that we wish but progress proves it is possible.

If you remain committed to your vision then re-commit to your journey regularly by remembering where you are today, where you were and where you want to be.

Best of luck in your personal change journey.

Has this helped you understand your journey?  In projects, leading and managing people through change is a key success factor for executional effectiveness.  In organizations, Change Management is a powerful differentiator and strategic imperative. 


(1) “It Starts with One”, J. Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen, Wharton School Publishing, New Jersey, 2008

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