Domino Effect: Navigating Change Without Getting Knocked Over

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Have you ever played dominos?

If so, you know how long it takes to set up the pieces in whatever pattern you choose. Yet regardless of how long it took you to set up the pieces, once you push that first piece over, it takes seconds to cause a change reaction that brings everything to the ground.

(Today’s Millennial’s probably have an app that does it digitally for them…)

Dominos are actually a learning lesson when it comes to business.

Why the “domino effect” happens

An organization will spend months, if not years, setting up the pieces together in a pattern that yields growth. Then at one point – someone adjusts or replaces one of those pieces and that change inadvertently knocks over the other pieces – and it causes a chain reaction – the domino effect. This occurs when a small change causes another similar change nearby, which then will cause another similar change, and so on in linear sequence. It typically refers to a connected sequence of events or linkages within systems.

Organizationally, the domino effect can be caused by the replacement or addition of new technology; it could be an acquisition, or downsizing of the organization. Regardless – the catalyst that sets the dominos in motion is some type of change – businesses need to navigate these changes carefully and be sure the changes, or the people making the changes, aren’t like a bull in a china shop.

Unfortunately that’s not how most businesses approach changes – with a systemic focus – most actually don’t take into consideration all the interconnected parts of the organization that could set the domino effect into motion, impacting the success of the change, productivity and profitability.

Want to make sure your company doesn’t go through the domino effect?

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3 steps your organization should take

Follow these simple steps:

  • Plan for change: Don’t forget organizations are interconnected systems. Change in one area has a direct impact on other areas. Learn how to successfully plan for change, implement, communicate, and create employee involvement and commitment, and measurement systems during change. Remain flexible and open to adapting the structures and processes as needed.
  • Develop a strategy: Have a developed and detailed change strategy, including a clear mission and a defined vision statement. The change strategy should help determine why you are taking on the change, where you want to go, and how to chart the course to help you get there. Does it answer organizational imperatives? Can leadership clearly communicate the strategy? Do employees understand why the changes are happening and how and where they fit into making them successful?
  • Engage your people: Organizations can’t exist without people. People make the difference in every business. To achieve a high performing culture, you must recruit, engage and retain the right people for your culture. Build a highly engaged and committed workforce. It is people who measure the organization’s progress and steer its direction. It is the people and their capabilities, individually and collectively, that ultimately determine if changes are successful. Always put your people first – both daily and during times of change. Challenge them, engage them, and support them. Provide for your people and they will provide for you.

So, organizations are interconnected systems. Changes in on area have a direct impact on changes in other areas. Even though the pieces to your business aren’t actually dominoes – you should treat them as such.

Because once the dominoes start to fall – it takes a long time to set them back up.

This was originally published on the Tolero Think Tank blog.

Scott Span, MSOD, CSM, is CEO at Tolero Solutions. His focus is people. He is a leadership coach and people strategist, which includes a focus on communications and change management. He supports leaders, teams, and individuals to survive and thrive through personal and professional change and transition. He supports organizations to engage and retain talent and wow customers, achieving success through people, creating places where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business.