Any of you out there interested in creating change? I believe we all are…just some of us are more motivated to do something about it! The Toronto Blue Jays are taking part in the postseason for the first time since 1993, and the changes they have made in their lineup are part of the reason. New pitcher, change in left field, and more, have all been positive changes.

Everyone with their hand up....they must be ready for change!

Everyone with their hand up….they must be ready for change!

Change, for anyone, is hard. Large changes or transformations within an organization – like a baseball team or soccer team – are even harder. It means taking all those individuals and helping each and every one of them to change. Sounds like a lot of work, and not very easy, when you look at it like that.

McKinsey is a global management consulting firm that does extensive research into improving client performance (http://www.mckinsey.com/insights). Their latest findings suggest that investing time and effort UP FRONT to design initiatives for change works better than putting equal time and effort in after the change has started. These findings suggest that the most effective initiatives involve four key actions: role modelling (BE the change), fostering understanding and conviction (help people to understand and believe), reinforcing changes through formal mechanisms (put it in their job specifications) and, and developing talent and skills (provide formal and informal training). These actions are critical to shifting both mind-sets and behaviours.

Yes, her eyes glazed over and I think I put her to sleep with my talk about change management!

Yes, her eyes glazed over and I think I put her to sleep with my talk about change management!

I can see you now, eyes all glazing over and wondering why you’re even reading this. I’ll tell you why: you’re reading this because it is going to make a difference in how you do change management! McKinsey’s research demonstrates that when companies or organizations (or teams) design a portfolio of change initiatives based on all four of those key actions, success is like to follow.

They go on to suggest that you must ensure these change initiatives complement and support one another, but at the same time, are truly innovative. Indeed, some companies indicate that just using tried and true activities often limits successful change. The most effective initiatives focus on an organization’s strengths and take advantage of where they are already effective, preparing and encouraging change in unique ways.

For you Jays fans out there, or supporters of Toronto Football Club, it means finding out what the team does really, really well, supporting that, and then introducing the change…say, like a new pitcher or incredible striker. And the team morphs around that introduction.

At the same time, the research tells us that being systematic in prioritizing change initiatives also helps to predict successful change. So preparing and planning for change in a systematic way, laying out which initiative will follow which other initiative, is going to help you in your change efforts.

And do you develop these innovative, creative initiatives by yourself, locked in your little change management office? NO! We know that involving people across an organization (or a team) with the design of that change will be wayyyyy more successful that ignoring them.

Brilliant defending!

Brilliant defending!

When I coached my daughter’s soccer team, I recall struggling with a defensive line problem – too many balls were getting past our defence into our net. It just seemed so obvious to me to sit down with my defence players to brainstorm ways to improve. It was the players themselves who came up innovative ideas, and created their own demanding practice drills that tightened up our defence. I coached the drills, but because the players had such a critical role in how we were going to strengthen our game, they chose to work hard. Talk about a change in behaviour and performance. FYI, we won the league that year.

You too, can win your league or at least be successful with your transformation when you adopt a multi-initiative approach to change. Consider how to role model, help your folks to understand what’s going on, use formal AND informal change mechanisms and develop (or bring in) talent and skills. Mindsets, behaviours and your entire organization are sure to change…is a good way! Just look at those Jays…some positive change, and they are on their way to the World Series!

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For the sake of a Community

I started playing fiddle about five years ago. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I travel down to Toronto each week with my friend Eleanor and we play in a group called MSR Fiddlers (March, Strathspey, Reel is the acronym). This is a diverse group of folks of all ages, stages and abilities, brought together by the simple love of Cape Breton music, step dancing and the generous and loving spirit of our leader, Sandy MacIntyre.

Three "hatted" fiddlers!

Three “hatted” fiddlers!

I don’t remember much about my first year of playing with this group. I struggled mightily as I tried to learn the instrument, play and memorize tunes, and try to keep my feet from stomping when we’d really get a tune going. Trying to fit in was not on my list of priorities. Then again, this is not an organized group – we slip in at staggered times, acknowledge one another with a head nod or and wave, sit down and launch into tunes. This community of people come together once a week and play music, nothing more. 

And then Leona got sick. 

Leona and Fiona - different in age but sisters in spirit!

Leona and Fiona – different in age but sisters in spirit!

Leona, a Cape Bretoner through and through, was like sunlight on anything she touched. She makes me smile just thinking about her. It was her second battle with cancer, and despite her motorcycle adventures in the summer and her zip lining in the winter, our group knew that this battle was her last. So one evening a few weeks ago, at Lucy MacIntyre’s bidding, we did something that we’ve never done, at least not in the 5 years I’ve been going to play music. 

Eleanor, warming up for a performance.

Eleanor, warming up for a performance.

We introduced ourselves to one another.

Names were exchanged. Street addresses and e mails, laughter and wishes and things that could have/should have/might have been done years ago. Characters like The Professor, The Teacher, Poodle Man (he brings his miniature poodle!) and The Older Lady now had real names. People learned that they actually lived down the street from one another. 

We were a disparate community of musicians who had morphed into a community of friends in a moment, simply because one precious member of our community was going to leave us. 

I believe we all have different communities in our lives. Our immediate families are a community, often extended to cousins, uncles, aunts, once removed or otherwise. I have my yoga community that meets every Thursday night, none of whom know my family. Or my friends from work, who make a huge community and are separate from other parts of my life.

Much loved members of another community of mine!

Much loved members of another community of mine!

These communities may or may not overlap, but it is our inclusion in those communities that gives us strength, a sense of belonging and a place in the world. They don’t have to be large; they just have to be.

Leona Au Coin, though if she were alive would most likely deny it, was a cornerstone of our fiddle community. She chose to learn the fiddle after having a stroke. She wanted something to help challenge and restore her brain. She somehow reached out to all of us in her own way, and helped shape us into this unique congregation of musicians and friends. 

Her funeral is next week. Our community of fiddlers will gather at the funeral home with our fiddles and honour her life the only way we  know how: play her favourite tunes. Because of her, we know each other’s names and we feel connected. We’ll also see members of Leona’s other communities at the funeral – her family, her travel friends, her work friends; so many people will be there to celebrate her life. And we will blend those communities, if only for a day.

To all my friends who read these musings of mine, I would ask that you take a moment and consider your own communities. You might surprise yourself when you realize how many communities you find yourself in. And to honour my Leona, take a moment and be thankful for those communities, and let all the members who touch your heart in some way know how very, very special they are.

Taking my own advice, if you are reading this, whether I know you or not, you are very much a part of my community, and I am so grateful for your presence. 

A small part of our community!

Eleanor, me, Anastasia and Leona – a small part of our fiddle community!