Stage 4.6  Act

You have now come to the point of action: the concern has been identified, the relation­ship established, the dimensions of the need examined, resources acquired, and an action selected. Whether it is home-grown or off-the-shelf or somewhere in between, it is now time to act. As you proceed, treat your action as an experiment, learning as you go along, improvising as necessary, and keeping track of what you are doing so that (a) you can do it again, not repeating your mistakes, and (b) so that you can teach it to others or show them how to follow in your path. The trial itself has three phases which answer the same feasibility questions you asked earlier but in reverse order.

  • Is it acceptable to your client and to the recipients of the change effort? (Is there an unacceptable level of resistance even before trial, enough so that it will block a fair test on the merits?)
  • Is it actually doable?
  • Does it serve some benefit (anticipated and/or otherwise)?

Meeting the minimum acceptability test: Label and package

Your very first foray into the real world of change starts with words and images, the label and the package. These are the first visible, comprehensible stimuli to hit the client. If they are stimuli with positive connotations for your audience, that is fine; they probably can't hurt and they may help, provided they (a) don't mislead, and (b) don't lead to false high ex­pectations.

If the labeling and packaging is neutral, i.e., "black boxes" without labels, that is also probably OK; you are not hurting yourself with most and perhaps helping yourself with the naturally curious among them. However, if there is no label, then "change" is the label, and if the package is a black box, then you are the package. Therefore, review again what was said in Stage 1 about first encounters. What you look like, what you say at the outset, the image you cast as a person, may determine the fate of your change effort regardless of its inherent value!

If the label is a turn-off for your audience, there is nothing to do but to change it before you start, and if the package is ugly, messy, confusing, blurry, repackage it before you start.


The trial to see if it can be done

If you are doing something new for the first time there is always a degree of uncertainty about whether it can be done at all, or at least done by you or done by the designated innovators. This is where "off-the-shelf' innovations have a big advantage. It is also where "old hands" and self-confident hands make a big difference. Remember the first time you ever tried to do something new. What was the foremost question in your mind? Certainly it was not whether anyone would benefit from what you were doing but could it be done at all, and more particularly could it be done by you in this situation with this group here and now? More generally, you want to know if the innovation will work more or less as you expected it would. What are the glitches? What are the supporting elements that are required to make it a reality? It is something like the difference between reading a good play and putting the play on before a live audience.


The trial to see if it does what it was intended to do

Finally, you want to know if the innovation really has the benefits it was supposed to have. Does it respond to the concern you started with (Stage 0)? Does it fulfill the need that you had defined (Stage 2)? Before the trial you need to have thought through what signs you might be looking for as evidence of effectiveness. Is the mere satisfaction of the users/audience enough? Will there be spontaneous recognition that the need is being met, or do you need to ask? How long is it reasonable to wait before you can have such feedback? Is one trial enough to determine benefits?