Simple Steps To Embrace Ambiguity & Lead Significant Change

by  Kelli Hinshaw  |  Change Management
Simple Steps to Embrace Ambiguity and Lead Significant Change

“Let’s wait until we know the outcome of the executive meeting in two weeks.”

This is a common and logical statement many leaders make when considering actions and decisions. It can be tempting to push pause on project implementation by falling into the thinking trap of, “This will probably change again tomorrow anyway.”

That trap is a common symptom of a larger problem – embracing ambiguity. Yet, embracing ambiguity is a core competency required to enact significant change.

The new world of big data and analytics, coupled with rapidly changing times, can cause the best leaders to the feel there’s never enough data or that there is another big event looming on the horizon to put a halt on important change initiatives. The thinking of “never enough information” causes us to believe our situation is full of ambiguity and stress, thus resulting in delayed decisions and project plans.

Inaction and waiting costs organizations money, productivity and leader confidence. A simple remedy to inspire action is a 2 X 2 approach that focuses on changing our mindset to embrace change and stop waiting for perfect circumstances.

Leaders should focus now on coaching their teams to take action on the best information they have available, for the event of having perfect data to make decisions will never occur. This approach will help eliminate perfectionism. Leaders can reduce chaos and improve accountability by quickly establishing and coaching to key success metrics, resulting in improved self-esteem and confidence for future tasks.

A 2010 Ache study of more than 42 organizations found that top performing leadership teams spent more time in project implementation than they did on project analysis. These organizations did not have different circumstances; all were presented with complex challenges and ever-changing times. The key difference between top performing and low performing teams was speed to action and the “we can make this work” confidence to move quickly into implementation.

The good news about achieving top performer status during changing times is that it begins with your mindset. Ambiguity is a perceived state that results from allowing your circumstances to make you think, “I don’t have enough.” When falling into this stressful thinking, you can 2 X 2 your way to inspire results:

Action = (Mindset + Quick Turns) X (Clarity + Roles)

To learn more about how to manage change in your organization, please email me at kelli.hinshaw@avantas.com.

What strategies have worked for you to embrace ambiguity in the face of change?
Photo Credit: Fotolia burak cakmak

About The Author

Articles By kelli-hinshaw
As Director of Client Education, Kelli is responsible for the strategy and execution of change management and client education initiatives in pursuit of optimizing enterprise labor management for large healthcare systems. Kelli brings a varied background with more than 10 years in human resources including transformational change, training & leadership development, talent acquisition and performance management.

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  28 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Kelli:)

Another very useful and well-articulated article – this one should be a discussion with leaders at all levels. One good reason I liked this article is your focus on an aspect of our data-driven workplaces I had not specifically considered, as captured in this quote: “The thinking of ‘never enough information’ causes us to believe our situation is full of ambiguity and stress, thus resulting in delayed decisions and project plans.”

We all suffer from the pace of change and that feeling that we never get done collecting and analyzing. However, you clearly point out the negative result of that in creating a perception of ambiguity and stress, which may or may not be objectively true. However, if we feel it, we believe it, and if we believe it, we act on it.

We all would do well to remember this and check our assumptions regularly.

I have a slight advantage when it comes to workplace ambiguity, due to some background in counseling and therapy, where concepts such as mindfulness, reality checking, and acceptance help folks (including myself) deal more peacefully with all the data, the lack of clarity, and just plain noise that comes our way every day.

Really appreciate this post … keep ’em coming:)


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