I recently saw an old clip of Paul Simon singing on Sesame Street. It is their 50th anniversary this year so there is lots of nostalgia out there. Paul Simon wasn’t singing his hit “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” but it sprang to mind as I had just read a great email about 50 Change and Transformation Risks to Consider from Australian Change and Transformation consultant, Dr. Jen Frahm. Do you see the 50 themes here? If I was 50 this year, the theme would be able to come full circle. Oh well, a decade overdue – but I digress.
So 50 risks when you are trying to make a change to your business that will leave you more profitable or in better financial condition, or with a better culture or more efficient supply chain. As I read the list, which I admit is excellent and detailed, my eyes glazed over and I lost my train of thought. And I LOVE working with companies as they seek to change and transform themselves. How could I ever get my clients to pay attention?
But as I forced myself to go back over the list and really absorb the information I realized that many of those items on the list of 50 are things that I build into the conversations with my clients.
For example, under the People Risk category there are eight risks ranging from “the right stakeholders have not been identified and engaged” to “there is conflict between the stakeholders regarding objectives”. One of the first things I do with a client is to understand the big and little “whys” of the project, who will be impacted and the different stakeholders. And I ask a lot of questions about past, current and future changes. So that’s 1-8 of the People Risk category right there. And honestly, I think there are more than 8 people risks involved in any change, but unlike Dr. Frahm, I’ve not counted them.
I could take you through all the categories – Resources, Leadership, Environment, Project and Organization, and Communication – but you get the idea. My big takeaway from this list is that there are at least 50 risks to consider when you are considering a change or transformation to your business. At least. Not one of them would be a show-stopper if there was a solution, but some solutions are out of your control. Like number 18 under the Environment Risk category “a risk of legislative change” that would change the outcome of your initiative.
You might look at this list and think, why even bother. There are so many things that could go wrong I can’t imagine even wanting to get started.
To that I say, snap out of it! There are at least things that could go wrong on our way to work each day too, but that doesn’t stop us from getting in our car or on our bike or on a train or a bus to make our way to our place of employment. What this list reminded me of is that there are many things we need to think about as we put our business initiative ideas through their paces. But if we believe this is the right thing to do for the business then we need to plan but not put the brakes on just because of something that might happen or could happen. I think it is critical to go into any initiative with your eyes wide open, realizing that even if you have considered 50 things there might be a 51st that crops up. As much as we would like everything to fall into neat categories and play by the operating rules we’ve set up, we need to own the fact that stuff happens and the best and most well thought out plans can still come up against something that no one (in their wildest dreams) had ever considered.
I don’t remember if Paul Simon lists all 50 ways to leave your lover in his song, but he certainly lists a few. And as he was singing, I’m sure there were many who could think of even a few more ways that even Paul Simon had missed. I think the best approach as you plan your business initiatives is to consider what could go wrong in each category, plan accordingly and keep your finger on the pulse of how it is progressing so that you can course-correct as the need arises. Don’t worry about the number. Maybe it is 50. Maybe it is 10 or 100. Whatever the number is, don’t throw up your hands and give up. It is just a number. The important thing is that you go into the initiative with your eyes wide open and your ear to the ground as you move ahead.