“Deep into a transformation, even if urgency remains high, even if people want to take on the big problems, and even if they succeed in generating waves of change, they can still fail because of exhaustion.” – John Kotter, The Heart of Change
Do you find yourself nodding in agreement with Kotter’s statement? I know I do. Transformational change often requires multi-year efforts from numerous employees and stakeholders in an organization. It requires new work that is typically added on top of all of the old work to keep an organization running. Continuing to pile on new work to existing work can lead to burnout for you and your people. So what can leaders do to reinforce the change and combat exhaustion for themselves and their teams?
Kotter says the answer is very simple: “When you have too much work, jettison some.”
It sounds simple, but in fact it can be tough to decide what no longer gets done in an organization. It can help if you and your team examine day-to-day activities and ask:
- Does this really add value?
- Is this task relevant?
- Do I (we) absolutely need to do this?
- What can be delegated?
- What can be done differently to streamline the task?
Kotter suggests that leaders aggressively rid themselves of work that wears you down and tasks that were relevant in the past, but are no longer useful. One task that I used to complete at the end of each year was a comprehensive, 30-plus page year-end report for distribution to all our stakeholders to demonstrate the value my unit brought to our organization. It was beautifully bound, in color, and took hours to compile. A couple of years ago, as we were going through multiple change efforts, my team and I determined that an extensive year-end report was no longer relevant. We skinnied it down to a 4-page, informal report that is shared with our stakeholders and nobody missed the long report.
As you continue to lead your change, what can you stop doing?