Is there ever a genuinely good or bad time for change?

There are two questions that seem to plague quite a lot of people:  is there a good or bad time for change and is there a good or bad change?There are two questions, regarding change, that seem to plague quite a lot of people:  “is there a good or bad time for change and is there a good or bad change?” Now it may seem the answers would be quite straight forward, but probably as no surprise the actual answer is “it all depends”. That is because change is about people and we all know there is no formula for people, so it is impossible to give a formulaic, straight forward answer.

In truth, timing is everything, no matter what the change, so getting the timing right is quite important.  The first thing to recognise is there is never a ‘perfect’ time – whether that is to decide to have kids, implement a new software/technology, amend or implement a process/system/procedure, insert your change here.

But there are more and less ideal times.  It is not to say you can make it work at any point, it is just to say there may be bigger challenges or sacrifices along the way when enabling change at one time over another.  This is why one of the first questions it is critical to ask yourself before you go to the Board or budget approval is why do we need to do it now, rather than in six months time or six months ago?

What is it about now that makes this so important or critical that it requires a new investment.  And let’s be clear, change is an investment of time, money, people’s good will, etc.  So it is important to really analyse the different scenarios  and understand the impacts of making a shift now vs another time, if at all. The results of this analysis will contribute to determining the readiness state of the organisation for change, the approach, and also identify any potential resistance that will need to be managed.  Furthermore, when you can articulate “We need to do this now because…”, you elevate your influencing power for the change.

The next question of whether there is a good or bad change depends also depends entirely on what is driving the shift.  Why are you doing the change in the first place?  It stands to reason to think that if the answer is a positive one then it is a good change.  However you need understand who the change is positive for, how and why?  What impact is it going to have on people, performance and business? You need to take a look at the existing processes, procedures, capabilities in technology and skill sets, people’s time.

You also need to understand how the political structures support or hinder the change, as well as desire for the move. Are people asking for changes or do they think they may be a waste of time or there is too much else going on for them to focus on it right now? What are people going to think and feel about what is proposed?  Once you have answered these questions, only then can you start to assess whether the change is good for you and the organisation and whether the timing is right.

In addition, you need to remember one change might be great for some people or one workplace location or team, whereas the exact same change could be the opposite for others. Many times this particular aspect is under-estimated, which results in internal culture clashes and can really inhibit the rate of adoption and hence costs.  So there needs to be an understanding of what this means to the organisation as a whole, but also what it could mean to different areas of the business, which include different business units and teams and geographical locations.

So, in a nutshell, if you really want to know if a change is good or bad and is the timing right you need to ask three simple but critical questions before you even go seeking for approval:

  • What is really driving this – why are we doing it?
  • Why are we doing it now?
  • What would people think and feel about the impact of the change on them?

The answers to these questions will give you a clear picture of the organisation and business readiness for any changes, along with a clear understanding of the approach and plans that are required for successful delivery.