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Essential Questions to Increase Your Change Effectiveness

We love questions because they open the mind and create new possibilities.
We love questions because they demonstrate curiosity, which is essential to creativity and innovation.
Change comes from asking great questions. Improve the quality of your changes by asking questions. Here are a few questions to ask when you want to initiate any kind of change, whether it’s a personal change or a transformational organizational change.

  1. Why this change? Why now? There are always more changes to make than there are time or resources to accomplish successfully. This is the difficult task of prioritizing. No matter how much you want to make all the changes, you can’t. Answer why, before you move on, to make sure it’s a change that must happen now.
  2. Am I committed to the success of this change? Marshall Goldsmith has a question for every coaching client who is trying to make change. He asks, “Are you willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” With a slight modification, ask yourself “Am I willing at this time to make the investment required to ensure this change is successful?”
  3. What is the change? Specifically, what’s going to be different? It’s easy to say that something needs to change and take vague steps toward something different. In business we often hear that silos need busted. There is an attempt to make cross-functional teams that work together to break down barriers. But what specifically is the change? Are people going to involve their colleagues in decisions that impact them? Will people move from department to department? Without a clear and specific definition of the change, it’s hard to do and hard to measure.
  4. What level of acceptance or adoption is required to be successful? What is success? Not all change requires people to buy into it. Be sure to define success in all dimensions including people (behaviors and mindsets), technology and process, money and structure. Too many projects use only financial measures. There is more to a successful change than the bottom line!
  5. Who is being impacted? Take time to understand all of the people who will be involved, both directly and indirectly. There was an amusing story about a bank that hired a software development company to update their ATM machines. The programmers worked diligently to create a phenomenal new interface. However, they forgot to engage the users of ATM’s – and consequently, when the software was delivered it was a complete failure. The project team thought it was fabulous, but they left out a critical constituency – the people using their output.
  6. What is the impact? How will people need to change their expectations, behaviors, and mindsets? What about the neuro impacts?  What about unintended consequences? Actions have consequences – this includes change. Be sure to understand this so you can be prepared to mitigate change impact.
  7. What is the capacity for change? Change requires time to adjust and incorporate into life. Whether it’s a new boss, a new system, a new workout routine or a new eating habit, if you don’t have margin (space in your life) to make the change, it won’t last. Leaders who get excited about making a change but don’t evaluate the capacity of the people in the organization are in for a rude surprise when they are unable to achieve the intended results. No capacity = no lasting change.

Use these questions to carefully consider changes you are initiating. Not all changes deliver the intended benefit, so it’s essential to think about what needs to happen and when. If you overwhelm people (this includes you!) then you will create frustration and dysfunction.
When you ask better questions, you get better results. Change is inspired by questions (What if…?) so use the power of questions to increase your change effectiveness.

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