What would celebration have to do with change, you might ask? I invite you to take a big step backwards and take an insightful glance into your past, and a visionary glimpse into to your future.
Did you notice that many commemorative events and celebrations are preceded by significant changes in both our personal and public worlds? In personal terms, the dates on which babies are born, children come of age, marriages take place and the anniversary of loved ones passing on are all remembered and celebrated. In public life the end of World War 1, the falling of the Berlin wall, the day Mr Mandela came out of prison – these are all dates which are celebrated and commemorated by many around the world. These are all events which changed the world for someone somewhere, forever.
When managing large scale changes in organisations, it is essential to celebrate every single “win”. As in the life of a child where many small celebrations add up to someone becoming an adult, these milestones are important and should be remembered and celebrated. A baby’s first tooth, their first step, their first words, there first day at ‘big’ school, their first day at high school, varsity, work….. In and of themselves these are not huge achievements. But collectively they indicate progress, growth and a move in the “right” direction.
Too often in organisations achievements small and large just come and go. The focus is always on the next milestone, the next delivery, the deadline. Quite frankly the changes, the progress, the small incremental improvements to the organisation’s business processes or customer service or growth, often go quite unnoticed.
I would suggest that this is one of the main reasons projects are concluded, but many change initiatives fail. You see, meeting the milestone just isn’t the point. Making a meaningful, helpful, useful change is. Overcoming change resistance, learning new skills and competencies and ways of being require far more effort than delivering a new business process. Using the process to good effect, being able to measure the improvements, being able now say we have changed what we do for the better – now that’s worth celebrating.
Quite frankly any significant change was only ever accomplished with a million small steps. But if we never stop to appreciate our achievements, to mark the moments when things started to change for the better, if we never stop long enough to celebrate the obstacles and challenges we have overcome, I would suggest that in the future we may well remember being on some project somewhere, but we will struggle to remember what changed. Make sure you celebrate every battle won, every milestone met, and every achievement reached. It is the tapestry of these that you will want to hang on your wall one day and celebrate and share with the next project team and the next generation.
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