You want to make a change in your workplace. Perhaps a process you use every week is driving you crazy and feels inefficient. Or there’s a policy that rubs you the wrong way and doesn’t seem logical. You may be asking yourself: Does anyone else care? Do I have the clout to make the change? Where do I even begin?
I’ve put together a few things to consider as you ponder your approach.
1. Why is the thing you’re trying to change is the way it is?
Talk to the key players in the environment where you would like to see a change. You’ll get better information when you keep your questions open-ended rather than closed. Encourage the people in your discussion to share their perspectives on why things exist as they do.
Keep a running list (on paper or in your head) about what you’re hearing. Patterns are likely to emerge from your conversations; be open to those patterns.
2. How will the people implicated in the change feel about it?
I’ve found that people tend to be open to a change that benefits them in some way. They are more open to hearing about that change if you can position it in a way that feels timely and relevant to their goals.
3. Can you position the change in a way that brings others along rather than alienating them?
Ask yourself: What would make the person involved in this situation more open to change? What would make them hesitant or hostile to the change? Peter Senge, an MIT Sloan professor who studies organizational change, argues, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” People like to feel included in a solution, rather than the problem.
4. Can you make tiny experiments to test your big idea?
The easiest way to solve a problem is to understand it from a few different dimensions. Break the problem into tinier tasks and activities.
For example, if your entire house were in a messy state, you would feel exhausted if you tried to clean it all at once. Instead, you would work on one room at a time, tackling a single section and pacing yourself.
Think about making a change at work in this way. Instead of redesigning an entire workflow, think about isolating one part and making a change to that part.
Remember to forgive yourself for failed experiments, but don’t be so easy on yourself that you give up. Most sustainable changes don’t happen overnight, and most changes in your work life won’t be sexy or dramatic.
5. When will you give up and move on?
Some changes may take more effort than you have to give. This is an important thing to learn about yourself. Devote your time so that your best energy is spent making changes that matter to you.