“The talk you hear…about adapting to change is not only stupid, it’s dangerous. The only way you can manage change is to create it. By the time you catch up to change, the competition is ahead of you.” – Peter Drucker
I saw this quote for the first time recently and it made me a little embarrassed. It occurred to me that I’d said things about keeping up with the pace of change, or not falling behind changing times, or some variation of that, numerous times over the years. As soon as I read that quote, I realized Mr. Drucker was right and I’d been missing the point.
How many times in our organizations when we talk about change are we responding to an outside force? The government does X, so we have to change how we do things. Our customers are demanding Y, so we have to change how we do things. Our competitors have started doing Z, so we have to change how we do things. We make change because something forces us to, always responding, always reacting.
How often do we actually talk about change when we’re not forced into it? How often do we think about how we might do something differently even if how we’re doing it isn’t currently that bad? I think for most organizations the answer would be “almost never”. We naturally resist change, so I suppose going out and looking for it seems like a scary idea.
But wouldn’t we all rather be driving the change bus instead of reacting to it? Wouldn’t it be less stressful and more productive to not always be playing catch up to the markets or competitors or the government or whomever? I’d certainly answer “yes” to both questions.
So the next time you & your management team are together, ask some change-driving questions: If next year you needed 20% of your sales to come from new products, what would you do? If next year you needed to provide twice as much value to your customers without adding any people, how would you do it? If next year the method you use to deliver products & services to your customers was banned, what would you do? If we needed to increase the number of customers we serve by 50%, how would we go about doing that?
There are a hundred others, but at least those are a start. It’s possible (probable, even) that none of those scenarios will ever happen, but that’s not the point. The point is to be thinking about how you can create change instead of just waiting for it to be pushed on you. Don’t wait for somebody else to force you to change. Make your own change.