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Happier ever after: A Shakespearean guide to managing change

Stephanie Shine
black and white drawing

Would Romeo & Juliet’s story have ended differently if they had leveraged a change management framework?

Every few years we are bombarded with new retellings of the Shakespearean classic. Today it struck me: why not flip the script by proactively managing change?!

For those that need a quick refresher: Star-crossed lovers meet in Verona, fall in love at first sight, ignore their families' feud, get married in secret, miscommunicate, duel with friends, make questionable life decisions involving nightshade, and prove that impulsive decisions and poor communication skills - along with an obvious lack of strategic mitigation techniques - are a lethal combination. Change management, the art of guiding organizations and their people through transitions, could have made a decisively positive impact on this famously tragic tale.

I would go so far as to say many corporations - like Romeo and Juliet - would be closer to a happily ever after if they took a few thoughtful steps before diving head over heels into their next transformation.  Keeping the fatal failures of our protagonists in mind, let’s review some helpful tools to improve our own change stories. 

Define the why and plan for the how

Maybe a rose by any other name is sweet but decide if you’re really talking about a rose at all

Even in a city as fair as Verona, change triggers instinctual emotions that can quickly escalate into chaos and undermine progress. To avoid calamity, define the change and your vision. Things may not always go to plan, but it is crucial to know how you define your ideal future state so you can adapt as things happen and channel passion into productivity. 

Expect resistance while creating resilience

Friends, Romans, Countrymen . . . ok, that’s Julius Caesar but the right idea

No matter how good the product, some customers and employees will buttress their status quo fortress. Combatting this resistance takes careful planning and active listening. With change on the horizon, listening to the various stakeholders to understand their interests and positions is a must-do activity. Mapping out the affected stakeholders allows you to plan and engage each stakeholder group early on and tailor your messaging and interactions to reduce their urge to fight against you and refocus them to fight for you. This process can help organizations manage risk, strengthen their growth mindset, and inspire future innovation. It can also help to relieve tension and prevent anyone from resorting to poison (looking at you Romeo). 

Foster collaboration and communication

“That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow!” (where we can reconvene and continue this dialogue)

Nothing creates more dramatic tension than secrecy; assumptions, anxiety, and rumors waste time, impede productivity, and can lead to major blow-ups. Instead, lean on key stakeholders to create natural champions and lower the temperature. By involving people in the process, you can better inform solutions, messaging, and build a culture of “no surprises” that can save valuable time during rollout.

Revamp related processes and train staff to unlock value

“She doth teach the torches to burn bright!”

Implementing changes, especially in the digital space, means impacts to your processes and people. Build in time to review, improve, reframe, and train staff to help ensure a more fulfilling (read: higher ROI) conclusion.

Celebrate the collective successes of the journey

“Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast.”

It can be tempting to rush toward the end-goal for the sake of saving time, but forcing haste leads to collateral damage. Realistically, implementing change takes longer than one act (and sometimes longer than three). To sustain yourself and your team, identify moments to highlight success and keep motivations high. Moments of joyful reflection can help further promote resilience and win over even the prickliest of players.

In short: whether you're dealing with matters of the heart or the heart of your business, the basic principles of change management can turn a story of woe into one of triumph. 
If you’re interested in learning how we can translate this to your next big change, my fellow Kin + I would love to chat. 

Hark: An Author’s Note - Special thanks to noble William “The Bard” Shakespeare. We extendeth our deepest and most heartfelt gratitude for his quill's labor in bringing forth these timeless tales for examination. We holdeth no shade upon him for excluding change management in favor of the enduring enchantment of dramatic lessons learned.


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