Have you ever created a Gannt chart for your Thanksgiving dinner plans? Written a budget for back-to-school shopping? Created a burn-down chart to plan for your wedding? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, you’re probably someone who loves to apply business concepts to ensure that big life events go smoothly. At Propeller, we’re an enthusiastic group of business nerds who find opportunity for optimization, efficiency, and cost savings in our everyday lives. As the holidays approach, we’re all too familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed and thrown off-kilter by the volume of events, family members, and big meals that require our attention.
Rather than approach the holidays with trepidation, we recommend applying change management principles to simplify your life. So grab a big mug of eggnog and join us as we tell you the tale of three change management strategies that you can use to keep your holidays feeling like a shiny wrapped present – and not a lump of coal.
- Understand your audience of relatives and friends
- Keep your routine
- Understand the impact of events
1. Understand your audience of relatives and friends
Most of us are pretty adept at making lists: to-do lists, gift guides, wish lists, groceries; and most of us have a good handle on the tribal knowledge that comes with each disparate “stakeholder” group we interact with during the holidays. For example, both sides of your family may have opposing political views, which can lead to conversations that traditionally bring the party down. Knowing this, you might need to proactively plan for the possibility of heated topics. Having a detailed understanding of the groups and individuals we’re interacting with can help us understand and account for specific needs. Consider drawing out each group (ex: “Dad’s side of the family,” “Mom’s side of the family,” and “strange cousins”) as a unit to highlight similarities, key culture themes, and locations. Even reviewing the landscape of groups can help us feel more prepared to engage.
In change management, we commonly think about this practice in terms of completing a stakeholder analysis. We look at groups of individuals as unique subsets to tailor our communication, approach, and timing. A great experiment in applying this practice to the holidays would be to come up with a catch phrase (e.g. “politics are off-limits”) that best describes the adaptations required to have a great experience.
2. Keep your routine
Change managers commonly consider the impact that multiple changes can have on an individual or group. When we have many audiences or tasks competing for our time, it can easy to forego routine. Prioritizing and maintaining some of our normal routine helps us keep a feeling of normalcy and helps reduce the feeling that we’re bombarded with changes.
As humans, we naturally find comfort in routine – it manages our expectations, allows for easy planning, and provides comfort in the familiarity of experience. With the many disruptions we enjoy this time of year, it’s important to leverage easy, self-soothing behaviors that bring you relief. As much as possible, try to keep to a normal routine. This can pertain to any aspect of our lives, but think specifically about our primary needs: food, water, sleep, and exercise. If you go to the gym every morning for those extra endorphins and some alone time, don’t stop going during the holidays! The more normalcy you maintain, the less the perceived impact.
3. Understand the impact of events
In change management, we use engagement and communication planning to ensure we understand, track, and engage audiences at the right time. Creating a visual of when and where events occur across groups of stakeholders is a powerful tool to ensure each group is aligned, aware, and not unnecessarily taxed.
The barrage of events and festivities this time of year can be a lot to keep track of. Managing event participation, busy schedules, and the routine of our day-to-day can leave us feeling a little scattered. Most of us have an existing calendaring system in place to track and coordinate our lives, but seeing all the new activities over a longer period of time can help us understand the impact and volume. Try making a timeline of holiday events over the next two or more weeks to understand the amount of activities you’ve committed to. Being able to see that you’ve been invited to three parties the night before your kid’s holiday play might help you prioritize and determine the best use of your time.
Being adaptable is the best way to successfully react to changes, both around the holidays and throughout the year. Applying the principles of change management can help us thrive during a state of change. We wish you a happy holiday season filled with good friends, family, food, and minimal disruption!