As the spotlight shines on Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. and foreign forces in Afghanistan, it’s instructive to analyze how he promotes institutional change. In a speech he gave on May 6, 2010 (when he ran U.S. Central Command), Petraeus discussed four steps to guide people to accept change.
Use the same blueprint to lead your team. People are more open to accepting change when it’s presented in distinct phases that strike them as painless and even stimulating. The four steps:
- Get the big ideas right. Identify the large concepts that provide a framework for what you’re asking your team to do. Draft one or more easy-to-understand ideas and tweak them to ensure they’re memorable. Then map out how you’ll articulate these foundational beliefs to your employees to drive their long-term goal attainment.
- Communicate the big ideas. People at all levels need to realize your motivation for embracing change. As long as employees understand the big picture and find it compelling, they can buy into whatever inconvenience, sacrifice or uncertainty lies ahead.
- Execute well. For Petraeus, the third step involves overseeing implementation of the big ideas. You need to translate lofty concepts into action plans that individuals must follow, from how they serve customers to how they use technology. Change isn’t an abstraction; it affects how people do their jobs.
- Extract and apply lessons learned. During implementation, capture what goes right and wrong. Then make adjustments that spur collective learning.