3 Insights for Establishing “Change-Quake-Proof” Initiatives

We recently shared insights about implementing initiatives that are resilient to unanticipated changes in our Coffee Break Webinar entitled Making Your Project “Change-Quake-Proof”.  The title is a play on the concept of an “earthquake-proof” building which is built with the intention of reducing damage during earthquakes. Similarly, “change-quake-proof” initiatives are designed to withstand changes that will likely occur when implementing an initiative, particularly a large, system-wide initiative.

Our guest speaker for this Coffee Break Webinar was Elizabeth “Betsy” McIntyre; she is the Director of the Tristate Energy and Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Consortium. I got to know Betsy and her team while I served as an external evaluator on an ARC grant that had been awarded to the TEAM Consortium. Over the two years of working on the grant, I was impressed with her leadership style and ability to lead a large-scale initiative effectively. This was quite remarkable because the project involved so many stakeholders from government, industry, and higher education across three states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia).

In this 30-minute webinar, Betsy shared how she builds team resiliency, engages with partners, and manages disruption. Here are three themes that emerged through the conversation:

  • Focus on Assets: We all have a tendency to identify deficits and then use those deficits as a way to drive change. Indeed, many project proposal solicitations require that some sort of need statement or gap analysis be included. The very nature of this process directs a project team to look at what is missing. While that may be required during the proposal phase, as the team moves into implementation there should be a greater focus placed on assets because assets create more energy than deficits. With that said, the project team does not need to be Pollyannaish or overly optimistic to the point of ignoring problems. Instead the team’s attention should be on assets and on determining what positive attributes currently exist, and how they can be built upon to address gaps.  

  • Surround Yourself with Quality People: It’s critical to surround yourself with experts that you trust and who will provide real-time insights and input. The conditions around implementation are constantly changing and it is important that the individuals that you consult with can provide the information needed to drive data-informed decisions. These individuals should have the capability to provide you with good quality data in a timely fashion. With solid, up-to-date information you will be able to determine if you need to stay the course or if you need to pivot.  

  • Involve all Stakeholders: The leader must work to cultivate a culture of consensus. This is particularly important so that the weight of the initiative is not entirely on the shoulders of the leader. If the initiative relies on the energy and passions of the leader alone, that can be problematic if other pressing business matters arise, health issues occur, or the leader’s stamina fades. To create a culture of consensus the project team must have a shared common understanding of the purpose of the initiative. A shared common understanding should be established very early within the life of the initiative. Once that’s set, then the team should invite people who have a stake in the outcome whether or not they are likely to participate. As the initiative moves forward, the team should be sure to keep the stakeholders’ end user in mind as services, tools, and resources are developed.

These are just some highlights from the webinar. For more in-depth information on each of these topics, I invite you to review the recording of the webinar.