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The Reality Checker: Zooming out to get laser-focussed on your change strategy.

Imagine you’ve just landed a new role to lead a major organizational transformation. Maybe you’re going to build a skills intelligence hub to increase organizational agility, or perhaps you’re the person tasked with improving team effectiveness and culture in the wake of several clumsy experiments to bring everyone back into the office.

Whatever the transformation, the enormity of the challenge can make it hard to find a starting point or to know where to place your attention.

I’ve developed a tool called the Reality Checker to help my Accelerator participants take an inclusive look at the multiple realities that impact their change strategy. Zooming out to consider all perspectives can signpost areas to focus on and increase your likelihood of success.

In theory, when all of these dimensions are in place, you’ve the wind in your sails and you’re in a great position to lead a complex transformation.

In reality, most people find it’s a mix. Some dimensions are present and others are missing. This is where you start to get clues about where to focus your next steps. If, for example, your organization doesn’t perceive the pain points and benefits of the problem you are trying to solve, you may find yourself needing to focus on educating your stakeholders. Or you may need to pivot the focus of your work to the pain points that the organization does perceive.

How to use the Reality Checker

Here’s a step-by-step guide for using the Reality Checker as you embark on your program of change, or use this tool at any stage in the process to give your transformation initiative a reality check.

Step 1: Assessing your personal realities

You may have noticed that the top half is focussed on the self, the personal realities for the individual leading the change. The statements prompt you to focus on how you are feeling in relation to the unknown and the complex, while also considering role clarity and the expertise you bring to the task ahead.

Consider the statements and indicate how accurate each one is for you, today.

Personal realities

Mostly accurate

Somewhat accurate

Not accurate

I feel capable when facing the unknown.

I can leverage complexity to find creative solutions.

I am clear about the role I play in this problem space.

I have the expertise to lead this change.

Step 2: Assessing your organizational realities

Moving to the bottom half of the circle, we now focus on the collective, in this case, the organization. The statements prompt you to consider how change-ready your organization is and whether the organization has the systems, tools, frameworks and budget in place to help you bring about the change you’re leading.

Consider the statements and indicate how accurate each one is for your organization today.

Organizational realities

Mostly accurate

Somewhat accurate

Not accurate

My organization has a clear perception of the pain points and benefits.

My organization is adaptable to change.

My organization has the necessary infrastructure + systems (technology, processes, frameworks).

My organization is resourcing me to do this work (people, budget).

Step 3: Finding insights

Now you can pull your findings together by reflecting on the pattern that's emerging and by considering these questions.

  • Is there a way to leverage the strongest or “mostly accurate” dimensions to advance your program of change?

  • What actions could you take to move closer towards the other dimensions?

  • Where there seems to be a big gap, is this signaling you to pause or pursue something? Is it helping you to prioritize what to focus on?

Step 4: Placing your attention

As a final step, I always invite my workshop participants to write down three actions they can take that will move them a couple of steps closer to their end-goal. Having taken into consideration the multiple realities that impact your change program, these actions should feel focused and grounded.

The science bit

The Reality Checker is inspired by integral theory, a philosophical map developed by Ken Wilber. Instead of attempting to find “one correct view”, integral theory attempts to understand and value different perspectives in relation to each other. The integral quadrant is a cool 2x2 matrix that maps the perspectives according to interior and exterior realities and individual and collective realities. For more info on integral theory, the Integral European Conference has lots of resources, and I doff my cap to the amazing faculty at Ten Directions where I learned about integral theory as it applies to personal development and facilitation.

Test it out

I am always evolving my approach to the workshops and accelerators that I run for change leaders. If you’ve any observations about this, or if you go ahead and try it out, I’d love to hear your feedback about what’s working and not working for you. Please share your thoughts on this very very short Google form 🙏


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