Bob Dylan’s song was on point. The one constant in this life — is change. Countless famous quotes about it can be found. One is better than the next. Change is inevitable and is always in motion. The concept I favor the most is the idea that “if we’re not moving forward, then we are going backwards”.
So then as leaders, how do we cultivate that culture within our teams. First everyone needs to understand the need for change. Just ask the former leaders and employees of Blockbuster Video, Woolworth’s, Howard Johnson’s, TWA, Oldsmobile, etc. Yes, I am showing my age with these examples. It’s easy to try & stick with the mind-set of “this is what we have always done and that is how we are going to do it!” Businesses are now required to be proactive. They need the ability and flexibility — to turn on a dime to meet ever-changing global business demands.
- First Identify the need to change. Educate others and your team why the change is necessary. Explain the benefits to evolving. Detail the downside and risks of just maintaining “status quo”. Set the foundation and get ready to start building. Once you have the buy-in you need — move on to the next step.
- Engage & encourage the team to embrace what’s about to happen. Find a champion among the group to help lead the charge. Empower your team members to truly explore new options, try alternative solutions, etc. Plan for many obstacles and challenges. Know you will face opposition. Do the necessary research. Obtain the data to evaluate all possibilities and support your course of action. Reward individual efforts and do not penalize them for setbacks.
- Inform and encourage everyone that “change” is continuous. Just when we think we are at the new forefront, the process all over again. This is positive and will only serve to propel us further ahead toward our goal(s). Technology has forced us to become more adept at evolving quickly, efficiently, and significantly.
- Set the stage to roll out and implement what has been planned and we what we have the “buy in” for. Be fully prepared to react to “hiccups” along the way. Understand and make sure the team knows the implementation won’t come easy. There are bound to be bumps along the way.
- Once things seem to be “on track;” check and make sure old ways don’t creep back into the picture. Most of us are not naturally wired to easily accept change, implement it, and stick with it. Frequently, there’s a tendency to revert back to what we know best, what worked well in the past, and what we are most comfortable with. New habits take time. It’s much easier to put on the “old, comfortable pair of shoes” than to break in the new ones – even though there are a few holes in the soles of the old ones.
- However, if the new systems are not working or have shortfalls, don’t be afraid to admit it. Reevaluate. Maybe a little modification is in order. Perhaps, bring some techniques back from the past. Experiment. Try what worked from the old system & blend that with the new system. Tweak it until you find the winning combination.
- Once you have accomplished your goal – Take time celebrate it with all involved. Then take a deep breath, get back in the game & get ready for the next change. It’s coming ready or not! The Times Are A Changin’.