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A client of mine—let’s call her Jane—is the CEO of a successful service-based company. But growth was limited based on the current business model. Jane’s advisory board recommended a new model that would change the packaging and pricing of her services to allow the company to grow tenfold in the next year or two.
Though Jane agreed with this new direction, she had reservations. For three months, every time she worked on planning the shift, she surfaced obstacles and reasons to not make the change. She was frustrated, fearful and even hopeless, convincing herself that this whole thing was a bad idea. The real problem was that Jane was stuck in her current business model. Rather than thinking about the paradigm shift in thinking and behavior that the new model required, she was trying to morph the old one step by step.
Does this sound familiar? We’ve all been there: overwhelmed, head swirling in confusion and frustrated because we know where we’re trying to go is just beyond the horizon, yet we can’t seem to get there and don’t even see the first step of the path forward!
You Can’t Always Get To The Future From Your Past Or Present
Most of us have spent our lives improving upon our current state to make it even better. Organizations call this “continuous improvement.” The approach is necessary when you’re on a clear path and need to refine over time, and there are wonderful methods to achieve results this way—for example, robust programs like Lean, Six Sigma or Total Quality.
However, there are times for individuals and businesses alike when improving upon the status quo simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, we need to make a big, big change. Going completely off script, though, requires an entirely different set of skills than making improvements to where we are now. Continuous improvement is largely based on data and logical thinking, but a full paradigm shift requires imagination, creativity and innovation.
3 Steps For Getting Unstuck With Ease
Change doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be fun! It’s all about your approach.
1. Clarify Where Things Are
First up, you need to understand the situation that needs changing—I call this A State. With Jane, I asked her to identify the attributes of her current business model, including how it worked and what its weaknesses were. For the latter, she highlighted limitations or breakdowns currently taking place with customers, operational effectiveness, invoicing and expansion. We documented everything on a sheet of paper, then put it to the side as a reference point for later. This ensured that she could always go back to it if she wanted.
When you’re on the verge of a paradigm shift, doing a brain dump about your current state allows you to clear your mind. You won’t have to worry about moving, shifting, modifying or improving the status quo because you’re letting it go.
2. Use ‘Practical Imagination’ To Determine Your Optimal Future State
Most people think the next step would be focusing on what they need to change from their current state. But now is actually the time for imagination. I call this the Breakthrough State (B State). Picture your business a year from now. What does your operation look like as a result of the paradigm shift?
When I asked Jane, she got quiet and took a minute to respond. Nodding her head as she spoke, she described the new service offering, the new packaging and the completely new way people would be making their purchases. She knew the ideal pricing at different levels of service and the customer’s journey from one level of service to another. Because she imagined the number of customers would be five times larger in that future, Jane also described how new employees would be hired and onboarded, as well as how they’d operate at different levels of service.
When you take the time to imagine and document your ideal picture of success, it can help you feel calm, confident and clear about moving away from your current state. The stress of only seeing the obstacles may completely disappear; it did for Jane.
3. Validate The ‘Why’ And Solidify The Plan
Now that both your current and future states are clarified, observe how your B State addressed the pain points from your A State. For Jane, she saw how all of her essential pain points would be completely resolved by the new business model she’d imagined. So not only did she buy into the idea of creating a new business model, but she was also totally convinced of its effectiveness for her, her employees, her customers and her business.
Once you have a clear idea of the “why,” it can create positive momentum that gives you the direction and energy you need to fully focus on the change process. Rather than trying to modify every aspect of the old model, you can pinpoint the higher-level key points of change. Jane, for example, determined that the most important action points for the paradigm shift revolved around technology, the company’s website, pricing, packaging and service design.
With this three-step approach to change, it’s possible to go from feeling confused and overwhelmed by change to feeling confident and resolute about implementation. The key is getting unstuck and envisioning what your optimal future looks like in terms of purpose, thinking and behaviors. Once you look beyond your current way of thinking, you’re better equipped to implement and practice the new state of being successful.
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This article was first published as a Forbes Coaches Council Post.