Momentum as the antidote to over-planning

Management consultancies likely won’t readily admit this, but they make a killing making change management complicated. After all, what is harder than change? It even feels hard to think about. Multiply it by X-thousand employees and you have an 18-month strategy retainer on your hands.

And they’re right, change is hard. But, there might be one ingredient that hubris misses when solving hard problems such as organizational change: momentum.

Momentum is what happens when you align people around a shared purpose, provide the tools and conditions to be effective, give the initiative a little kick, and get out of the way. Having a focus on creating positive momentum amongst groups of people relies on a unique mindset — to facilitate with authority. Facilitation is, in many ways, the antithesis of traditional “management,” however in isolation it implies a lack of vision; authority supports this idea by providing the clarity of direction that helps guide people, yet allows them to feel empowered in the process.

Momentum, fostered through facilitation with authority (FwA), can be a powerful focal area to truly catalyzing change. This premise builds on the phrase “involvement is the key to commitment,” in that by getting people involved in helping create a movement, even if it’s tiny to begin with, creates a certain inertia that is prone to build steam.

Within business environments, particularly creative and inventive organizations, momentum has an incredible force because it is inherently welcoming. Momentum, by it’s very nature, indicates that something is working and it has a growing energy. Passionate people want to be a part of movements, particularly ones they can help shape.

Practically speaking, it can be paralyzing to deconstruct all of the interconnected parts in large daunting problems in order to create a robust, overhauled strategy for success. That strategy will surely be based on many assumptions on what will create success. A slightly different approach — one that doesn’t reduce the importance of having a strategy in the first place — is to specifically build for momentum. Ask yourself, how can you create small initiatives that start aligning values in the right place and begin demonstrating progress, creating a reward mechanism that makes people feel good about the effort they are putting in? It’s much more likely that a successful initiative, even if it’s small in scope, will catch the attention of others, spurring them to ask “how can I get involved?” or “could that team also help with this other, related, thing?” as opposed to the traditional chain of communication that seeks, “can we get the resources across the organization to begin to address X, and then Y, and ideally also Z?” It changes the conversation.

Momentum breeds more momentum. It is a perpetuating cycle, and one that is very powerful, and much more powerful than one person or one team could ever be — hence why hubris often ignores it.

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