In Change, Leaders

“It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

For the past couple of weeks in this space, the topic has been change – how we can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing, even if they’ve worked in the past, and how if we’re feeling overwhelmed by that then perhaps we need to start small and take on only manageable bits at a time.

I understand completely that it’s one thing to say that stuff in a blog post and another thing entirely to actually do it.  Change is hard.  Even if you completely buy in to the fact that change is necessary and even if you take it only in small pieces it’s still hard.  Somewhere around 70% of change initiatives taken on by businesses fail because no matter the situation, change is difficult.

At least give yourself a chance.  Before you get started, make it very clear to whoever’s involved in the change what the end result has to look like and why.  Too often we just tell people to make change without really making it clear what success is and what a big deal that success will be.  We change a process or add a new system and people are just supposed to do it.  It’s a lot easier to commit to a change if you know what an ideal outcome looks like and why it’s important.

Also, when you’re explaining to the people making the change why it’s such a big deal, make sure you’re explaining why it’s such a big deal for them.  Too often leaders tell the people they lead that change is important because it’s going to help the company grow and/or be more profitable.  Unfortunately, when leaders say stuff like that, lots of people hear “I have to do all this work and the boss will make more money.”  Why should they get excited about the change?  Will it make their jobs easier?  Safer?  More efficient?  Is the change something fun?  Why is it important to them?

Lastly (maybe firstly), look in the mirror.  A lot of leaders talk about change and give good speeches, then go out and do the exact opposite of what they just told everybody.  Leaders can’t just talk.  They have to model exactly what they want.  Nothing undermines change faster than the idea that the leaders are implementing new things that everybody else has to do, but it doesn’t apply to the leaders.  That won’t fly.

Change is hard, and it can be overwhelming.  Maybe all this stuff sounds like too much to handle.  And maybe it is.  You are absolutely free to choose not to make change.  Just remember when you make that choice that you’ve chosen failure.  It’s up to you.

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