In Action, Change, Leaders

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” – Gen. Eric Shinseki

If you can get past the disaster that his career became over the past few years, Shinseki’s quote is one of my all-time favorites. So many of us don’t like change – and that in itself isn’t some kind of moral wrong. The problem is we have to do it whether we like it or not.

But are our organizations even ready for change? In a lot of cases the answer is no. There are a number of things that have to be in place, but two in particular that I’ve seen lacking lately. In no particular order:

Understanding the need for change. There are a lot of management teams out there who feel like their organizations need to change. They feel like that need to change is pretty obvious. The problem is it isn’t necessarily obvious to everyone in the organization. Those individuals who are going to be involved in making change have to see that there is a gap between where you are NOW and WHERE you want to be – and they have to recognize that the gap needs to be crossed.

Understanding What’s In It For Them. As much as we’d like to think people do what’s best for the organization out of the goodness of their hearts, the reality is that to most people ‘change’ sounds a lot like ‘extra work’. If you want people to do extra work (and do it well) then you have to convince them that they will be better off because of it. Depending on how big the change is, maybe they need to be way better off.

Think about each of those things. When you’re trying to lead change in your organization, do you really make a case to your people about the need for change? Or do you just assume that because you’re the leaders people are excited to do whatever you say?

Do you really explain what’s in it for them? Let’s be honest – if we give a speech saying this change is important because it will help the company be more successful, what the employees hear is ‘we’re doing this so the higher-ups make more money.’ Somehow you have to convince them that there is something in it for them too – and that it’s worth the extra effort.

As you approach change in your organization – and you’re probably already dealing with it on a daily basis – don’t forget that it isn’t as simple as giving orders. Make sure your organization, and it’s people, are truly ready.

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Showing 2 comments
  • DeeGene McMartin

    Thanks for these thoughts. Yes we all deal with change everyday. You’re right about convincing the team that change is better for them too. We need to take a lesson form the advertisers and apply it to our need for change. We embrace technology in our phones and cars, they have convinced us we need, but often times resist it when it comes to making a change in the way we do our daily work.
    I want to share this statement I have written at the top of my to do list. Learning from the past is useful, dwelling in the past is destructive.

    • Matt Heemstra
      Matt Heemstra

      Thanks DeeGene. Your statement at the end is perfect. We have to try to learn from everything that’s happened – then put it behind us and move on.

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