New Beginnings: How We Grow and Change Together

Gong Xi Fa Cai! As many of you likely know, Lunar New Year began on February 10th and ended on February 24th. (It has always been a big deal in the Philippines, where I grew up, and am genuinely glad that it is widely celebrated where I live today, too.)

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2024 is the year of the Dragon, which is associated with significant growth and change (two of my favorite words!).

Change requires more than logistical planning; it calls for a story that provides clarity and creates a much-needed emotional connection for everyone involved in the change.

As leaders, storytelling is a key skill for us, especially during times of change and instability. Humans speak and think in metaphors, and we do so much of our learning through narratives. (It is what has allowed humans as a species to thrive and dominate the world in such a short amount of time.) Tim O’Brien, who has authored books on war, said it well in this NY Times article: “Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is.”

Let’s explore strategies for how we can craft stories and make change plans to lead successful change initiatives.

Assess Your Change Readiness

Successful organizational changes begin with laying a strong foundation that prepares your people, before anything is even announced. Take an honest look at your culture, resources, and the collective attitudes before getting started. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Broad Listening Through a Survey / Interviewing at Scale: This might include questions on current satisfaction levels, perceived gaps in skills or resources, and openness to new processes. Scrutinize the collected data to identify patterns and areas of resistance. (At BOxD, we leverage AI to do “interviews” at scale, replacing traditional surveys with more interactive “interviews” that take a conversational tone and adjust questions as people respond.)
  • Interactive Listening Workshops: Facilitated experiences allow team members to productively express their views and concerns about the focus areas related to the change.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Initiate a series of discussions with a diverse range of stakeholders from various levels, departments, and population groups across your organization. This strategy ensures you’re not amplifying and building on just a single viewpoint but are getting a truer picture of the collective appetite for change.

Craft Your Change Story

The next step is to begin crafting a change story, i.e., what you are moving from (the current state), what you are moving to (the future) and why.

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind during this process:

  • Clarity and Simplicity: Develop a story that uses straightforward language and vivid imagery. Avoid jargon and complex terms that could cloud your core message.
  • Building on Your Current Strengths: Acknowledge the positive aspects of the current state while making a case for the change up ahead. Highlight what is working well and how the proposed changes will build on these existing strengths to create a stronger tomorrow.
  • The Consequences of the Status Quo: Lay out what is at risk if you do not move forward with the change. What will we lose if we fail to act? This aspect of the story should convey a sense of urgency and the critical nature of the change.

Build Your Change Team

With a clear story to rally your people, the next step is to bring together a dedicated team of change advocates. This team’s job is to internalize this narrative deeply and to carry the story into all corners of the organization, leveraging their own strengths to ensure it resonates with their peers and teams.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when assembling the team:

  • Select Key Leaders: Identify and recruit influential leaders from across the organization who can champion the change. Look for individuals who are respected by their peers, are effective communicators, and are committed to the organization’s vision.
  • Diversify the Team: Ensure the change management team is cross-functional, representing a variety of departments and perspectives. This diversity will help in addressing the change from multiple angles, ensuring a more comprehensive approach.
  • Empower the Team: Provide the team with the authority and resources they need to drive the change. This includes access to executive sponsorship, decision-making power, and a budget for change-related activities.
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly outline each team member’s role in the change process, along with the expectations and responsibilities associated with their role.
  • Establish Team Goals: Define what success looks like for this team, using clear, measurable goals that directly align with the overall objectives of the change initiative.

Develop Your Human-Centered Change Plan

A key responsibility of your change team is developing an implementation plan that recognizes the diverse perspectives and needs across your organization. From leaders to customer facing staff to operational teams or long-timers to new hires, each group will need to embrace what the change means for them.

A good change plan hits three marks:

  1. What is changing for them specifically and whyDetail what success looks like mid- and post-change, and translate what the change means for each group of people. Just as crucially, it is important to share what is not changing. Make sure to share the rationale, not just the vision. You will know that you hit the mark when each person can say, “I understand what is changing and why.”
  2. How you will equip them to succeedOutline how you’ll support each group through the transition, whether through new tools, training, or adjusted responsibilities. Ensure that the atmosphere is supportive, where people can try (and fail) as they make adjustments to how they work. Success is achieved when team members believe, “I am able to do my part to make the change happen.”
  3. What’s in it for themAddress any potential resistance by spotlighting the change’s advantages. If certain team members are motivated by specific outcomes (e.g., closer customer interaction, new work opportunities, or having a positive impact on society), highlight how the change will facilitate these hopes. Change is more likely to succeed when people not only understand the change but connect with it enough to genuinely say, “I am willing to play a part in this change.”


But a word of caution… it’s critical to be honest!! Be sure that the benefits highlighted are realistic and achievable. Overpromising or presenting an overly optimistic view without acknowledging potential challenges will erode trust and credibility. Balancing optimism with honest reflection on potential challenges helps manage expectations effectively, ensuring that team members are motivated but also prepared for the realities of the transition.

How do you balance the promise of change with the reality of its challenges? What lessons have you learned in your change initiatives?

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