Yesterday, as I was sat discussing business plans with an advisor, I was asked, ‘What do you think makes it possible to bring about change?’ My mind was racing!
I won’t go into the details of the discussions that followed but I will mention one or two observations that we both made and some thoughts that came to mind:
- Is change always necessary to achieve our goals? Too often we want change for the sake of change, not because it is the best way forward or the best way to achieve our objective. No! Change isn’t always necessary.
- If do we need to change, is it easy? The answer here is No: Change is rarely easy. In order to change we need to disturb the status-quo, how it’s always been done and bring a bout a shift that not only provides a plan of how to do it, but also the inspiration and motivation to achieve it. We need the right people to drive the process and bring about the changes, not with a whip of chords but by personal example and commitment.
- How do we bring about change? The person driving the process needs to believe that it will work and then persuade and take others with them through to completion. I was talking to a friend whose boss thought that a particular activity would be ‘good for staff morale.’ However, when asked if they would be taking part, the immediate answer was, ‘On no! Not me.’ At that point a great idea lost credibility, not because the person perceiving the idea wasn’t taking part, but because they had no intention of taking part. Sometimes we have great ideas that we can give to others to execute because we don’t have the necessary skills etc, but we believe in the idea and our passion motivates those who execute it on our behalf. Demonstrating that we have little or no personal belief in our idea a) is immediately perceived by those carrying it out and b) immediately raises doubts and drains energy. The plan may be executed, but by firing squad rather than enthusiasm. The result is negative not positive.
Too many books make change sound essential and easy.
I believe change is good when it’s necessary and is easier when the people behind the change can champion it effectively and get the ‘buy-in’ from those who have to make the adjustments.
I think there’s too much hype around the subject leading us to believe that unless we change we can’t hope to be successful or even survive as businesses and as people. I also believe that many of the changes implemented relate less to what’s needed and more to an individual or group of individuals who want to put their mark on something, what I would call ‘ego-driven change‘ rather than ‘purpose-driven change.’
Here is a very contemporary example of ego-driven change …
This is the exam season here in the UK. One of the people responsible for setting-up exam rooms told me of a recent event where an exam was stopped by an invigilator, not because of an irregularity in the paper, or a fire alarm but because the sign outside the exam hall, asking passing students to ‘Be Quiet Please, Exams in Progress‘ was written in red ink on a white background rather than black ink on a white background. The exam was suspended until the offending sign had been changed. Who instigated such mind-numbing stupidity? I suspect someone who was wanting to put their stamp on the education policy. Who benefitted from this? The students taking the exam? Definitely not! Their thought flow was disrupted and they were extremely hacked-off. The person making the sign or the college? No. Time and materials required to effect the change cost money. I’m very sure that such change did result in making a difference. However, I’m too polite to write down my views on exactly what difference the change made!!