Change, and how to make it work for you

Here’s a cool thing. Change. It’s what we’re going through right now up here at the original BizDojo in the Ironbank building in Auckland. Perhaps a big change. Or perhaps a small one. It’s kind of hard to know right now. But that may be the beauty of it.

Our space is changing you see … and space, as most people know, is core to the function of the BizDojo. We design and manage space in such a way that it attracts people and forms a community. We’ve embarked on a refresh of the space - project “space refresh” (very original I know!).

Going through this process has been a great learning experience for me - as the newest member of the Auckland team. How do we make sure that it is change for the better? How do we do it without affecting people negatively? How do we do it without breaking the bank? What are the highest priority changes required? What do our residents want most? What are the biggest selling points that may actually be pulled apart if we change the wrong things?

These are just some of the deliberations - and finding the time to actually talk to everyone and get their input has its own challenges.  You start learning lessons about people and the way they operate. After talking to so many of them, you come to learn that often people don’t actually know what they want. They think they do, but then you give it to them and they aren’t happy. Or they have a giant wish list of things that may be impractical, expensive, or absolutely and completely contradicts what the previous person just said.

Lucky for us, we have a certain lethal weapon here named Christian Pistauer. This fantastic long-term resident specialises in spaces. In fact, his website explains that going through this process is precisely what he does. With his help we learned the most ideal way to go through this process with minimal frustration. It turns out the madness, does, in fact have a method. It is as follows:

1. Find the problems

Ultimately, this is what it’s all about. Granted, we want to “refresh” the space. But while blotting some paint on the walls and swapping the post-it note artwork with a Mona Lisa may be just what the doctor ordered, it doesn’t actually address any issues. On the surface, you can change things and give the place a new lease on life, but if we’re already changing things, why not make it a more authentic and meaningful change? Rather than simply discussing what people want, what kind of colours, what kind of artwork, one must ask what the issues are. What are the key challenges that each person faces? Break them down to their essence, their core. Someone complaining about lack of whiteboards is often just saying “I can’t find a place to brainstorm”. Someone complaining about the music choices is often simply saying “sometimes I need a quiet place to go do some work”.

2. Find the themes

Of course you’ll be talking to a whole stack of people that come from different backgrounds, have different needs, come from different group sizes, and have different ways of processing information/being geniuses. Ultimately then, you must find the most common themes, and use them to create a plan that offers the most utility. Collate information, graph it, read your notes, and figure out what the biggest pain points are. In a sense, change management has a similar pattern to building a startup; find the pain points (or niches), make a few assumptions, validate them, and then use the information to make a decision on how to move forward.

3. Key priorities

At some point in your discussions (whether in groups or with individuals) it may be a good idea to get them to decide on three to five priorities. Otherwise you may find yourself dealing with too many main themes to know what to concentrate on. This is a simple way to help reduce the noise in your analysis.

4. Present potential solutions

As the manager of change, you’ve got to … well … manage change. This more or less means that you’ve got to make some decisions. Essentially your final step is to come up with a few solutions, and then present them back to the people you’re trying to negotiate with. You discuss the potential options, but more or less stick to those solutions as final frameworks. A little bit of deviation is ok, but keep it minimal. If you don’t do it this way, the swathes of different opinions will force you to rinse and repeat the process over and over with no actual conclusion.

5. Implement the master plan

This is the step is self explanatory. Watch your vision unfold!

At first it was a daunting task. But once explained, it all made sense. It takes time to make it happen, but time is also important as it allows employees or community members to digest the information and become comfortable with it.

Obviously this isn’t the be all and end all of the process. People study this field for years. But so far, it seems to be working on our end. Let’s just hope the results in a couple of months back up the theory!

Gil Amir is the Community and Communications Coordinator of the BizDojo Auckland.