Change Management Training Step 3: Set Clear Goals

Provide A Clear Aiming Point

Resistance to change climbs fast when people can’t figure out where they’re headed. The more vague the destination, the fewer volunteers you’ll find eager to go there.

Keep in mind the fact that change, in general, causes some folks to lose their nerve. No reason why you should contribute to this problem. Since ambiguity leads to uncertainty, you should do what you can to give people a clear sense of direction.

If the organization is drifting and goals are blurry, employees become more tentative. That translates into low-voltage resistance. People start to pull back. They drag their feet. Naturally, organizational change bogs down.

A well-defined aiming point helps everyone navigate through the usual mess and confusion. Provide a clear map—a picture of the future that’s easy to read and understand—and people are less likely to feel lost or adrift. Even when change becomes scary, frustrating, and downright hard work, clear goals help keep people from giving up.

A goal gives hope—a good antidote to fear—and that reduces resistance. Even people who don’t find the goal particularly appealing will show less resistance than if the future is left fuzzy and vague.

Ideally, though, you should make the aiming point desirable, so it has a powerful magnetic pull. The more the future seems forbidding, the more people are likely to resist change. A dangerous-looking tomorrow causes people to romanticize the past and protect the status quo. After all, who wants to climb over a mountain of problems unless there’s a “promised land” on the other side? Aimless misery is hard to sell.

Make your change goals easy to see, and identify an end point that makes the struggle of change worthwhile. Change needs to be purposeful for people to commit.

“They spend their time mostly looking forward to the past.” —John Osborne in Look Back in Anger