In a previous post, I’ve briefly covered why we should consider team coaching an investment as well as the success criteria required to make it a profitable investment for the organization. When we decide to bring change that requires coaching, it is important that the rationale for this change be understood by those impacted by it.

As a leader, why do you wish to bring about change in your business? Change is sometimes necessary to ensure the health and well-being of the organization. With time, we sometimes slowly lose our market position because of our complacency and lack of precaution. We lose our sense of urgency and our heavy internal processes result in inertia. Under these circumstances, a radical change is required to ensure the survival of the business.

Within a team, what can cause a desire for change? The answer varies according to the corporate culture. During your career, were some environments easier to change than others?

Last year, I read an article about a Gallup poll that indicated that almost 70% of people on labor market did not like their jobs. Considering the number of hours spent at work, there is something quite disturbing in this statistics.

On the other hand, this statistics helps understand why, when we’re talking about changes to certain teams, they manifest cynicism and we hear comments such as the following ones:

  • “What will it do? Anyway, everything will remain the same.”
  • “Do executives really want this change?”
  • “Why should I invest myself in this change? It will only increase my workload!”

Under such circumstances, a shock treatment is sometimes what’s needed to create a sense of urgency that will rekindle the flame.

One way to begin this shock treatment is to take the time to stop and think about our default future. Have you ever heard of this concept? Nope? Yet, we all have one in several aspects of our lives. Our default future is what will happen if we change absolutely nothing to what we are currently doing.

Imagine yourself on a beach during your vacations. It’s late in the afternoon. You’re lying down comfortably in a hammock, and the sun is slowly setting down. What’s next? Close your eyes and try to imagine… You will possibly go back to your room to have a shower and change. Then, you and your spouse will have supper in one of the restaurants, go for a drink, and then watch the night show. It’s a logical sequence, isn’t it? Chances are that’s what you will do for the next two weeks without really thinking about it, just going with the flow of your life…

Without noticing it, this default future is sometimes living deeply in each of us, and we do not know how to get out of it. So, we are almost resigned to go ahead with it. However, what is important to understand is that this future is not yet reality. It is still possible to change it via our actions.

Back to our shock treatment! What will happen in our organization or team if we change absolutely nothing to what we are doing? Do we have the courage to ask ourselves this question and explore the answer? Do we have the courage to discuss this matter honestly with our teams?

From experience, I can tell you that it is not always an easy conversation to have. At the organizational level, we can talk about our market positioning, financial health, or even business survival. At the team level, conversations are slightly different, but it’s much about the place it occupies in the organization.

The goal of the conversation is to fully explore our default future in order to bring awareness in the group regarding the need for change. As long as we do not reject our default future, we will not have the motivation to do something in order to prevent from going through it. Another objective of this conversation is to allow for discussions and to take frustrations out in order to make room for naming and inventing the future we wish to create.

However, I see a few challenges arising if we only use the default future to provoke change within the context of a group:

  1. Exploring the default future does not help the members of the group to be aware of their behaviors that lead them in that direction.
  2. By exploring solely the default future without creating an invented future and establishing a plan to reach it will keep the group on the same place.
  3. The default future may seem very far, unrealistic, or impersonal for some people.

Even if we are shocked by our default future thus rejecting it, our motivation to make change happen can diminish quickly.

The default future is a real shock treatment to create a sense of urgency. However, a softer approach would be to define and present an inspiring vision to your team in order to lead to change. To increase the power of your vision, you could even have other individuals take part in its definition and that of related objectives. Afterwards, these people could be internal champions who help bring the change throughout the organization.

Depending on the magnitude of change, it could be interesting to make it a formal project; thus, defining a clear vision and business goals, as well as clearly stating expectations. Addressing change as a project allows to track it throughout the organization’s normal processes. It also allows to keep the project visible to everyone and to be more than a group workshop or just a presentation during a beautiful summer afternoon.

Before letting you go, I once again have a few questions that may give you food for thoughts:

What change are you trying to bring to your organization or team? What is the default future if this change does not occur? Is your default future powerful enough to give you the motivation to change?

Please note that this post is the second of a series of articles to refine the content of my new conference on coaching teams using narratives.

steffan surdek

Steffan is an Agile coach.

Clients are at the center of his approach and he shares his expertise with them. He is dedicated to their teams and their results. He works with them in order to find Agile solutions that answer their business needs.

Contact him to see how he can help you.

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