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Roll With The Changes

Going back to the 2008 Presidential election, change has been in the air and in our vocabulary.  Candidates from both major parties promised some sort of change, and I think that one reason Obama won is that he seemed like the bigger change of the two.

It's interesting now that our legislators and much of the general public is getting very tentative about change.  Healthcare reform is a huge change and should be scrutinized carefully.  But, it seems now that almost any sort of change is running into resistance even though that's what the majority of the electorate voted for.

Working with change is the subject of this post (not healthcare reform).  Many organizations and groups I am working with are struggling with changes.  People often talk about the needs for change as it is easy to identify problems with the status quo.  It's much harder to embrace the changes that address those problems.

And, in the dynamic environment we live in today, change is a constant.  In fact, you have to accept changing conditions as the status quo.  I think that the best leaders are the ones who are the catalyst for change and who build their organizations to incorporate changing conditions into their normal work expectations.  Change isn't an irritant that causes you to do or learn something new.  Instead, change is an exciting element that keeps you always thinking and on your toes.

I was first exposed to these ideas back in 1987 when I first read Tom Peters' Thriving on Chaos.  That book is a bit out of date now, but it opened my eyes up to a different way to manage people and organizations.  I still think about things I learned from that book.  It taught me that you could empower the people who worked for you to respond to customer and market demands dynamically.  This is key for many organizations and still applies today.

The CEO needs to be the catalyst for change.  If the CEO has trouble dealing with changes or is slow to react to market changes, it will stilt a company's growth.  Instead, the CEO should be pushing for rapid reactions to market conditions and customer requests.  Procedures and approval processes are all subject to regular improvement.  If the CEO models this, it will trickle down.

One thing that empowers employees is knowing that anyone can come up with new ideas that will be embraced by the organization.  This is critical for a strong company culture.  You want to leverage the ideas of the people who are closest to the product, process, market, or customer that you are dealing with.  This is regardless of rank or status.  Of course, new ideas have to be vetted before they are implemented.  But, they should always be considered.

An environment where positive changes constantly occur is one that is more engaging for the employees.  Change should be thrilling and shouldn't be loathed.  It keeps you mentally sharp.

If you are having trouble accepting change, I recommend the clean sheet of paper approach.  Throw out everything historical that is holding you back.  Make no assumptions based on the way things have always been done.  Instead, think of how things would be if you were starting from scratch.  Once that's clear in your mind, you should make that your goal.  If it's the optimal solution, you need to get there.  And, you need to blast through the roadblocks that are hanging on to the status quo.  Don't accept "we've always done it that way" as a reason for continuing.

If your organization is still resisting change, shake things up.  Switch where people sit in your weekly meeting, change the time or agenda of regular meetings, and move around desks or offices.  Be the catalyst for new thinking and adopting change.  Or, you'll be left behind by your competitors who do.

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