Change is Imperfect

Change is an inevitable part of running a startup. A.T. Gimbel shares how to navigate changes and move forward effectively.

A.T. Gimbel
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November 14, 2019

Change is Imperfect

How to get more comfortable with change and move forward effectively

I recently read Ray Dalio’s Principles and an important point in the book is about how difficult change can be. He points out that change is never perfect; in fact it is imperfect at first. But the most important thing is to get moving in the right direction and keep tweaking until the change is made. Too often we are resistant to change because we don’t have the “right” or “perfect” answer yet and prefer to keep the status quo instead of moving into the muddy waters of change. Here are a few things to help get more comfortable with change and move forward effectively.

Define the problem

Oftentimes a first step is making the team aware and aligned that there is a problem to be solved. This should be pieced together from customer feedback, internal feedback, external feedback, etc. Based on the feedback, you should not only to be able to articulate the problem, but quantify the impact of the problem (i.e. financial, customer experience, morale, etc.). If you can’t agree there is a problem, it will be that much more difficult to convince the team of the need for change.

Have a vision

After you’ve defined the problem, a good next step is to get clear on the vision that will solve that problem. It will take some time with many twists and turns along the way, but at least having the big picture vision sets the focus and alignment for where you are going. Remember, as you inevitably get lost in details at some point along the way, you can always point back to the vision to influence and guide your decision making.

Create a plan

Solving a big problem is very hard without some tactical steps to get moving and build momentum. It is easy to say we want to improve our customer experience, but what specific steps in terms of training, process, product, etc. can be taken to have an impact. With some specific steps, you can now focus on executing those steps and tracking how those actions have an impact on resolving your problem and achieving the vision. As with anything in life, the first couple steps to get moving are often the biggest obstacle to change.

Revise the plan

Inevitably the great plan you laid out will run into some bumps. Some things did not work out as planned, others are more challenging to execute, new issues pop up, etc. This is normal and okay. The path for change is muddy and rarely works out exactly as the initial plan expected. You don’t have to have all the answers. Remember to be flexible and gather the right feedback to keep tweaking your plan towards that vision.

There is much more detail written on change management and specifics in each of these areas. When it comes to the startup, keep it simple by aligning the team around the problem and vision, building a plan to execute, and adapting that plan in line with feedback and your vision can help keep momentum and create change versus waiting for the perfect solution.

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