When making a change, if it fails, it can be disruptive. Fuzziness is right up there with the many reasons why making a change can backfire or fail spectacularly.

To use sunlight for an analogy, making change is akin to using a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays on a piece of paper. While the sun’s rays are out of focus on the paper, not much of anything happens. When the sun’s rays are brought to a pinpoint, the bright spot on the paper almost instantly ignites and causes the paper to smoke and burst into flames.

Change that is too fuzzy, too much out of focus, may attract attention, but may not move the needle of  productivity. A well-focused change, on the other hand,  will often be a big boost to productivity. A boost to productivity almost always means a big boost to a corporation’s bottom line. When making changes, it pays to make every effort to remove fuzziness that may surround the assignment of responsibilities or of the change itself.

Here are some suggestions to help you sharpen your change focus:

  • Engage your employees or colleagues to discover what might need improving…ask around.
  • Ensure only one person has the rose pinned, not multiple parties. Only one person ultimately should be held responsible for making a change.
  • When assigning responsibility for delivering the results of the change, the change ought to be treated as any other goal and should be communicated in as precise a way as possible. Like any other goal, it ought to be measurable and be given time frames and nurtured by appropriately-sized budgets.
  • When discussing or assigning the required change, close off all escape paths. It must be clearly communicated that no reasons or excuses will be tolerated for missing the change objective.
  • Don’t merely describe the change required. Explain why it is necessary and how it fits into the larger effort or the larger strategic direction of the corporation:
    1. Clearly state the mission and nature of the change.
    2. Provide sufficient background stating why it is needed and how it fits .
    3. List specific components, actions, “sign posts”, expectations to be accomplished.
    4. List responsibilities, expectations/tasks,  and names of those who are going to contribute.
    5. Be specific with timelines for any sub-components of the main change, and of the deadline for the main change.
    6. Provide specifics of scorecards which will be kept to measure progress of sub-components and of the main change.
    7. Outline, or better, provide specifics for a review process to ensure progress is being made.
  • This is a good time to put it in writing. After a meeting with the person who has the responsibility for making this change a success, support that person in writing by communicating the directive to employees who must contribute to it or who will be affected by it.
  • Tag or involve those with relevant skill sets across functional lines within the company. Make it known that those employees are additional knowledge resources to be used as mentors and guides but not as doers.
  • Frequently test along the way. Can you detect early signs that the change is going to work when fully implemented? Test often and in a manner that won’t be disruptive.