Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where Are We Going (and Why Am I Carrying this Handbasket)?

My first gut reaction reading Mark's post about the danger of "quick wins" - That's not quite right.

I need those quick wins (particularly among the really important people holding the purse-strings) to help collect resources and convince others of the value of whatever thing it is that I am doing.

The issue then becomes - is what I'm doing actually

a) Valuable to the end-user. For example - if I get people addicted to online poker, is it really valuable?

b) Valuable to the organization. Lots of folks may start blogging, but if the blogging is focused on why the management sucks, have we done the organization any favors?

Dr. Karrer addresses these top two more eloquently that I ever will.

c) Going to help take the whole (individuals and organizations) someplace ultimately better.

C is where the creative process comes in. Let me attempt to explain.

At the start of any creative project - whether its something as small as a document or as large as a cultural shift, most folks have a rough idea of what the end product should look like. They may not have communicated it particularly effectively, but it's there.

I would argue that the "quick win" is an invaluable tool for change. And one that I rely on intensively as I attempt to change the way the staff is educated in my organization.

Those "quick wins" help this process by:

- Encouraging others to try the new thing. If something is working and a peer is excited about it (particularly one who's opinion they trust), others are more likely to try it. Word of mouth is a ridiculously powerful way to implement change.

- Providing information about the strengths and weaknesses of the technology/plan. As more people play with the new thing, we gather more information about it. Furthermore, people become more engaged in the process of change, because they are actively involved. They have more say over how the change will occur. This empowerment results in more buy in, particularly as their feedback is incorporated into the plan.

- Modifying and, in many cases, improving the end product. Particularly in the case of culture change - where there always seem to be variables missed in the initial planning stages.

The most successful implementations I've witnessed have had elements of
- Quick wins among the influencers
- Strong word of mouth as a result
- A willingness to modify the plan as a result of feedback.

It's not the quick wins that is the danger.

It is the inability to articulate what one is trying to accomplish as a result of the change and the lack of analysis of the consequences of that change (both intended and unintended)that are the real dangers.

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