The dichotomy of change never ceases to amaze me. On one hand, change signifies newness; a modification from what was to what is or will be. The acceptance of change indicates a willingness to learn and unlearn which is generally anything but the status quo.

I know, this is deep, but hear me out.

On the other hand, change is constant. However, the constancy of change signifies anything but newness. Constancy, according to the dictionary on my MacBook Pro, is defined as “the quality of being enduring and unchanging.”

So what we have here is something akin to what one of my college professors loved and that is answering a question with a question (not really, he hated it).

What I’m referring to here in terms of change is the co-existence of both the problem and the solution. When change is on the horizon there’s only one way to stay current: you either change proactively (ahead of the curve) or you change reactively (after change has ensued). Either way, change equals change.

However, to change requires the skill and will to do so. The decision to embrace the new and forego the old doesn’t sit softly with many people—it requires concerted focus and a willing decision.

To keep up with the rapidly changing environment of today, here are three fundamental decision-making criteria (with a diagram for all you visual types) you can use to determine how to navigate change:

Resources: These are the physical, mental and organizational boundaries that enable, restrict or influence action. Enabling resources do just that—they help get you to where you want to go. Restrictive constraints include rules and regulations. Influential constraints are assumptions, organizational culture or climate and politicking. One’s ability to identify and navigate such constraints successfully are key criteria before arriving at any conclusion.

Understanding assumptions is key to broadening your knowledge of the subject. Specifically, you want to explore not just the supporting assumptions but also the non-supporting ones, too. Play devil’s advocate with yourself and assume the decision will fail. What’s the backup plan?

If your current decision-making boundaries are too constraining, consider why such parameters exist in the first place. Can those boundaries be redefined? Who can you enlist to help define and explore those boundaries? More often than not, our decision-making space is wider than we think. Of course, if the decision is to escalate one level higher, knowing how the next authority figure makes his or her decisions is an equally important resource.

decision making criteria pic

Time: Since time is inelastic (we all have the same amount in the day), consider what is feasible for the amount of effort needed for success. How much time is allotted for the change to take place and be effective and is that allotment accurate? How will this new change impact your time? If this new impetus requires more time and energy than before, what will you need to change in your routine to succeed?

If you look at how you spend your time over the course of a day (the Time Doctor app is a great way to measure this) you are bound to see inefficiencies: email, email and email; responding to the unexpected (yet consistent) office “fires”; the interruptions that steal away your focus.

Requirements: What is necessary from a process perspective for the change to succeed? What conditions need to be met by you? Others? More so, how does the previous component of time play into their schedules? Are the right people in the right seats in the right bus?

You want to measure what you already have against what you need, and then identify the training or development vehicle(s) that will bring the latter towards the former.

The decision-making criteria you use ultimately determine how effective the solution turns out to be. Just as building a house requires a strong foundation, the effectiveness of any change effort is a direct byproduct of the analysis applied in understanding it.

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