The Fog of Change

The world is changing – maybe you’ve noticed? Whatever your business, wherever you live and whatever your interests, the chances are you have. Our economies are on a roller-coaster to somewhere but we don’t know where or how. Many of us are asking; what is the best thing to do in this situation?
The brilliant business thinker Professor Eddie Obeng tells us in his book “Perfect Projects” that the most difficult type of change to manage is a Foggy Project. A Foggy Project is one where you don’t exactly know the goal nor do you know how you will achieve it. His advice when in such a project is to stay in touch with each other and your stakeholders, do very regular reviews of progress and watch out for early signs of progress and danger.   

Today I was working with a team of people embarking on a brand new and potentially very large business. It was the first meeting of the founding team.  The room was full of a mixture of excitement, determination, openness and willingness to embrace challenge. Listening, questioning and humour were plentiful. And all this despite recognition that they did not know what the ultimate goal was or how they were going to get there – and they had a message from their Executive Directors that this must not fail! They are in a Foggy Project right now and that’s fine.

I was struck by the contrast with people whose businesses and livelihoods are being changed irrevocably in the financial crisis. In many ways they too are caught up in a massive Foggy Project. But unlike the team starting the new business, they are in a Foggy Project that is not of their own choosing. Instead the fog has come down around them. It was not what they had expected or planned. They are experiencing the normal range of normal emotions associated with things being very different from your expectations: anger, frustration, fear and bewilderment.

So, regardless of how foggy it is in your world, one of the best things to do right now is to accept that change is happening and choose to be a participant in the new. Sign up for the new challenges and opportunities the fog poses rather than looking back at what might have been. I don’t underestimate how difficult this can be – letting go of expectations and dreams is hard. Evidence from many walks of life shows us that the people who thrive best in a new world are often those who accept it quickest. So keep in mind the approach to dealing with foggy projects – review regularly, stay open-minded, and keep your travelling companions close by. When you do you will find your leadership is appreciated.


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