Change management is not an easy thing.
If you have ever lead a change endeavor, you had the pleasure to face some challenges. The fear and confusion brought by poor communication. The awakening of the organization’s immune system and the blanket resistance that comes with it. Or the planning is ridden with as many potholes as a Montreal’s street (believe me, that’s quite a lot).
One of the largest challenges is the sheer volume of situations you need to pay attention too, regardless of what they might be. It forces you to dilute your energy and often makes you lose sight of the goal or purpose of the change. There’s just too much noise.
The problem, however, isn’t that there’s too much to cope with. It’s just that we lose sight of what matters in all the noise. You can’t do everything, win every argument, convince everyone or even fight every possible battle.
The solution isn’t complicated, although it’s not easy. You have to learn to let go.
My younger self-learned that through a Zen practicing teacher of mine who would answer nearly all of my rants with the most frustrating questions ever: “Why?” and “Does it matter?” If you can’t answer those questions in a satisfactory way, then you have to let go.
Let go of what’s not worth fighting for
Learn to choose your battles. Some of them are decidedly worth your energy and should be fought to the bitter end. But such battles are few and far between.
Think about what you are about to fight for. Think of your reasons to fight. What you expect to get out of it. You would be surprised at how many of those important battles are in fact utterly hollow.
We get into most of our fights because of pride and stubbornness. Just like fighting things you can’t change, fights that aren’t worth the cost will just deplete your precious resources. Again, the trick is to be able to figure out the ROI of a potential fight quickly.
Compromising or switching to a different solution that accomplishes the same purpose but without the opposition is the best option for a potentially costly fight.
Let go of what you can’t do anything about
You can’t fight the wind.
Amongst the battles which are not worth the cost, fighting against constraints that will not change are the most wasteful. Compromising will not work on those unless you are the one making all the compromises.
Those immovable constraints need to be identified quickly and then dealt with with a bit of strategy. Some you can circumvent, some you leave alone, some you undermine undermined and, like the wind, some can be harnessed and made to work for you.
Keep in mind also that it is not because you cannot do anything about a constraint or situation now mean that you won’t be able to do something about it later. Context change and essential constraints can become irrelevant or beneficial.
Let go of that good idea you had
Yes, that idea was not just good, it was impressive.
Impressive enough to redo all your change plans to accommodate it? Can you sell that to everyone involved? No? It either wasn’t that good of an idea, or it wasn’t the right time for it.
Ideas are a very personal thing. We get attached quickly to the promising ones. But the better the idea, the more dangerous it is for that exact reason: it is too good to cast aside.
When such an irresistible idea comes, get into the habit of monitoring the cost of keeping it alive. The very second that cost surpass the benefits, it’s time to let it go.
Let go of that thing you really liked
Everyone have things we love and loathe to leave behind. In every change effort, you’ll find at least one such thing.
But it’s a thing. You can let go of a thing. You have a difficulty of letting some things go because of how it makes you feel, the time it saves you, or any other such underlying reason. By identifying that underlying reason you don’t want to let go of the thing, you can start looking for a replacement that fit with where you want to go.
Your thing can be many, well… things: It can be a tool, a location, a habit, a relationship. A lot of baggage makes moving forward more challenging. Find the essence and turn baggage into a springboard that will allow you to jump forward.
Focus on what’s essential
That very zen approach to change help getting rid of the noise so you can focus on what’s important. That’s the key to a successful change endeavor.
Learning to let go of the non-essential is simple to understand, but in practice, it’s hard to master. Dismissing the most trivial will come quickly enough, but even after years of practice I sometimes still struggle with letting go of whatever is close to my hard.
The practice of letting go is like a muscle. Just keep working at it, and it will become easier over time.