“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the change, ch-ch-ch-changes…”David Bowie
“Change is the only constant in life”Greek Philosopher Heraclitus, c. 500 BC
Change… a loaded subject. Don’t we all hate change at some level? I mean, we generally like things the way they are. And if change is pushed upon us – in life, love, work, with friends, etc. – it often doesn’t feel good. Hopefully the changes you’re facing are good in the long run even if they don’t feel like it in the short run. And that you’re an active participant, not feeling like a victim.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with many thought leaders in the areas of change, change management and continual improvement. Motorola, Boeing, General Electric – who I’ve had the pleasure of working with at different times of my IT career – are all masters of change (well, Motorola did miss the whole consumer cell phone revolution, but they adapted). These organizations are all recipients of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology’s Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award.
The Baldridge award is America’s preeminent award for quality and excellence. And a key pillar of success for each organization? A true commitment to Continual Improvement. These industry leaders not only embrace change, but have baked it into their company cultures (sometimes to the chagrin of those “being changed!”).
“Change is resisted at all levels of an organization. Human beings are the most adaptable animals when it comes to change, and at the same time, the most resistant”Chris Church – Changemeister
So why write about this now? Well, at work, we are implementing a number of changes to the way we do business. Joining a very successful 30 year-old business has mostly been fun (what work – even working for oneself – is all fun?). But a big reason I’ve been brought in to the management team is to foster, inspire, and manage change. Sure, we’re profitable, have awesome customers, excel at customer service and more, the business landscape in our market is constantly changing. And in some ways, we’ve been slow to change with it.
Whether its personnel, pricing, fees, internal controls, compliance or general business practices, in my opinion, businesses must constantly adapt to meet their customer’s needs and the business landscape if they are to grow, thrive, and remain relevant.
We have a relatively small team of knowledge workers where I’m employed. And a large group of folks working in the warehouse and the field. We will all be touched by change this year… this summer, even. We won’t all like it, or like it all (hell, I won’t like it all!). But a few things will help manage stress and resistance.
- Involving Employees in Change. By considering the vast experience of our employees, we’ll seek input on most changes. Line employees may not be decisionmakers, but in my experience they’re the most experienced and cognizant of what works and doesn’t work for their roles. Involving employees is critical to the success of any change agenda.
- Explaining not only the “what”, but the “why”. No one likes changes that come down from on high without a rational understanding of the “why”. Clearly communicating not only what we want to change, but why we’re changing it goes a long way to gaining employee buy-in.
- Avoiding “death by a thousand cuts”. Small, incremental changes are appropriate for many of our changes. But, constantly making small changes for something that needs bigger isn’t recommended. Sure, phase your changes if you’d like, but have a clear understanding of where you want to be before making those incremental changes. A business acquaintance once told me “There are small rocks and big boulders in your way. Do you want to spend your time moving the pebbles, or removing the boulders?”
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! A time of rapid and/or significant change causes real stress on those affected by that change, even those supporting it. By clearly communicating goals, milestones, and what success looks like, employees will be more engaged, less fearful, and more supporting of change initiatives.
In closing, I enjoyed this article from Inc.com about reasons organizations get stuck on change. Wish us all luck as we travel this lifelong journey together. And remember… nothing is constant if not change!
The Suburban Forager