Leadership View #5: When Leading Change..

2013 05-05 SuperHero iStock_000013976003XSmallLeadership View #5:

When leading change – get some early wins –this makes change irresistible to those that resist.  Getting these “early wins” may involve changing priorities or sequencing of events.

How often do we begin an initiative by setting a goal with a date when everything will be complete?

When starting a project we are excited to get “it” done. What if instead we focused on getting small wins and buy-in, how might we approach the project differently?

One of my favorite visible stories of a leader who understood the importance of early wins is The Chicago Wacker Drive Project. Mayor Richard M. Daley began this enormous project, raised the funds for it and hired the team to lead it. It was a massive undertaking. The job required rebuilding both Upper and Lower Wacker, a primary downtown Chicago artery.

What I remember most about this project is it began in early 2001 and was declared “finished” 20 months later in late 2002.  It was declared a success coming in on-time and on-budget. The reality was, only a portion of the Wacker Drive rebuild was completed during this period. Work on Wacker Drive continued for many years and continues today.

Mayor Daley knew he had to get an “early win” and sequence the events so that he could pause and celebrate success. The work that continued for ten years hence followed this same model. Small incremental projects are funded, begun and then completed and celebrated.

Here are my questions for you to consider when you next begin an initiative in your company:

  1. What is the ideal sequencing to get the job done right and on-time?
  2. If my goal is buy-in, what changes might I need to make to get that buy-in?
  3. Am I willing to go slower at the front-end to get to adoption?
  4. Who are the people I can count on to be early adopters and influencers? How do I engage them, so they are willing proselytize our success?
  5. How will I celebrate success?

Elisa K. Spain