I recently worked with a client in a declining market. The atmosphere in the company was rather glum. It seemed like most people had decided that there was not much that could be done about the structural forces buffeting the company, and the leaders were reconciled to navigating a genteel decline. Isolated voices called out for greater creativity and more entrepreneurship, but these were voices in the desert – their encouragements and admonitions had limited impact.
There actually were exciting opportunities to pursue, but risk aversion was high. In addition, there was a consensus that the market was against the company and that there was not much that could be done about this. Declining revenue did not constitute a burning platform. Rather, it was explained away. Several leaders had attempted to change this situation, but the effect had been limited.
In situations like this, creative thinking on how to make change happen – and stick – is required. There are many valuable models, theories and books that can support such thinking. Three favorite books of mine are:
Chip and Dan Heath: Switch
Otto Scharmer: Theory U
Joanna Barsh: Centered Leadership.
These books present rich frameworks together with inspiring examples that can make change easier when it seems really hard.
In this article, I will share a simple framework that can be conveyed in minutes and that can serve as a useful checklist when change seems daunting. It is the change equation. It states that
CHANGE = BP x CV x P x SFS,
Where BP is the burning platform, CV is the compelling vision, P is the plan and SFS is a series of successful first steps.