Eat Desert First – Lessons Learned Before You Start

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What did we learn? What went wrong? What went right? How can we improve?

Hopefully we’re asking these questions at the end of a long change project and applying that knowledge to the next ones.

OK, here’s a crazy idea. How about if you conduct the post-mortem at the beginning, before you start a change initiative?

We often talk about telling stories here as part of your leadership toolkit. Let’s push the envelope a bit.

I’ll hand my pen over to you. You get to be the author.

What I’m suggesting is writing a narrative story about your change initiative as if you have transported to the future and are looking back at your project. In this story you will explain the successes and the failures. You will describe the important players, both the expected characters and the surprise people who appeared as major participants.

Tell the story in as much detail as possible. What were the inflection points? How far off plan did you have to go? What was unexpected? How did you handle that? Which risks came to be? Which risks were mitigated, and how?

What did the biggest resistor and complainer have to say? How did the executives respond? What impact did the change have on the organization?

How did your team grow as a result of the change initiative? What skills did you need that you didn’t have?

What departments were winners and which were losers as a result of your change?

Most importantly, what were the areas you should have invested effort and money in that you missed in planning?

This isn’t an easy exercise. Why do it?

Well, it’s simply easier and less expensive to engineer a change initiative early than to try and fix things later. Even if our exercise expands the budget just at the time you’re trying to play the game of trimming the budget so you can get approval.

Eating desert first provides insights into the predictable future and allows you to avoid the obvious pitfalls that are hard to see when running full speed.

To do this week: Try creating a post-mortem for an upcoming change initiative. Get your team involved in a collaborative writing process.

Note: I borrowed the subject of this message from the title of a great book by my friend Steve Wilson.

Let me know how it’s goes. What were your biggest challenges in creating your story? Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On September 13, 2017
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