Rachel Letby, Director at Crail Consulting, argues why it makes financial and organisational sense to build on what we already have, rather than starting anew.

When it comes to designing a change, most people start off by either developing a vision for the future (blank sheet of paper) or looking at their current problems and deciding how to address them. I would suggest that we’re missing out on an alternative approach, looking at what we’ve already got that is good and strongly enables performance: ‘renewal’.

‘Spring, a time of renewal’. Does that sound like a truism to you? It did to me when I first thought about it as a topic for a blog. But then I started thinking further and looked up the definition of ‘renewal’. The definition that I liked best was: ‘Give fresh life’.

That seems so apt for this time of year as we raise our heads to the sun after a dreich winter (I am an optimist!) and start thinking more about the future. As Tolstoy said: “Spring is the time of plans and projects.”

However when it comes to plans and projects, it’s so easy to pretend that we have a blank sheet of paper to start from. But we don’t. I think I must have lost count of the number of times where I’ve heard people, myself included, complain: “If only we didn’t have this system, that process, or the other already.” The reality is that we will usually already be in the situation and have to work with what we have got. Theodore Roosevelt’s words are so wise: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

So I’m wholeheartedly recommending that we all think of words beginning with ‘re’ when thinking about how to make change happen here and now. Words such as: ‘re-invent’, ‘re-prioritise’, ‘refresh’, ‘rejuvenate’ and, of course, ‘renew’. These all acknowledge that we are where we are, not where we would prefer to be, and that every situation has something good about it that can be used to make or enable change. They may be ‘tarnished’; for example: processes that have become cluttered with non-essential activities that have been added over time, reports that have lost their focus, systems that have fallen into misuse due to poor training or ill-advised short cuts. However it’s often more effective, both organisationally and financially, to address these rather than to throw them out and to start afresh.

The same with people. As Audrey Hepburn said:
“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

By building on what we’ve already got, we’re more likely to get buy-in from the rest of the organisation as:
• it recognises their experience and expertise;
• we’re not starting the learning curve from the bottom;
• acknowledges their worth; and
• people are less likely to be fearful of the changes and so may be inclined to be even more radical in making those changes!

So as Spring approaches, let’s think about what we can renew, both ourselves and others, to make significant changes for the better!

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