One of the things I am most thankful to Christina Comeau for teaching me was about the five steps of change: Attention, Intention, Information, Insight, and Action. This five-step process takes place, consciously or unconsciously, at every level of every activity in our lives, including our work lives. In complex organizational change, we watch it occur from the lofty heights of overall program management down through to each tiny email written as a part of the change process.

So… those five steps. What are they? Anywhere I go I write them on the wall – in BIG LETTERS:

  • ATTENTION
  • INTENTION
  • INFORMATION
  • INSIGHT
  • ACTION

I’d encourage you to do the same.

Write them down. Now. Write them on a whiteboard, or write them on a large sheet of paper. Make sure they will sit above eye level (while seated) and somewhere that you can see from your desk.

Doing this exercise, NOW, matters as to whether you get any value out of this blog post. Write them down. Tape them up. Big letters.

It makes a difference. If you didn’t just sit down after taping the sheet of paper on the wall, you’re just reading for entertainment. Which is fine, but, really? Do it.

What does it all mean?

Attention, Intention, Information, Insight and Action. They bear repeating. They bear memorizing.  But what do they mean?

Attention

Attention is that which provokes your curiosity – that which draws you in. In an email, it could be a pithy subject line. In a book, the opening sentence. On a TV show, that first opening 20-30 second scene. In a corporation, it’s the Vision statement – or it should be!  Attention is the very starting point that gets you to notice.

Intention

Intention is understanding and expressing the specific purpose.  It’s where you make your compelling case for change. In an essay, or a court case, you state your intention right up front. You state, in the plainest, clearest, simplest language possible, exactly what your intention is, and what the purpose of the next block of time will be.  Intention is the specificity that guides your actions.

Information

Information is exactly what it sounds like — it’s the data that allows things to happen. Once you’ve stated the crux of your case in the intention, you must communicate enough compelling information to allow stakeholders to dive into the possibilities, to challenge your assumptions, then to refine understand the situation more clearly, enabling them to make up their minds.  Information is the data that enables people to act.

Insight

Insight is that moment where minds and people shift.  It is instantaneous for some, gradual for others, and never for a few. When there’s enough clarity that the individual has created net new information – they know something they didn’t, they see something in a different way – you’ve witnessed a moment of insight. Your challenge is to provoke attention, to state a compelling intention, then provide a usefully diverse set of information until human beings start having moments of insight. Insight is the moment when they buy in to change.

Action

Action is the one that counts. The first four don’t ~really~ matter if the fifth doesn’t occur. As a sales person, a project manager, a president – you NEED someone to ACT on the moment of insight. What specific action(s) do you want them to take? More importantly – understand the outcome you are looking for, the result of the one or more actions taken, and then clearly support actions that move you toward the outcome.  Action is the way to change what needs changing.