why change is the new normal


I had the pleasure of listening to and be outraged by a cleric who opened his sermon “…over the course of several millennia, nothing has really changed, there has been no progress that is meaningful and man faces the same challenges today as he always has”

The pleasure came from having such a provocative statement shake the way I think (always good for the soul) – and then compounded from a most unexpected source – in a small face to face meeting, me and about 12 other folks and Steve Ballmer where the prevailing complaint to him was “Microsoft is exhausting to work for because of the rate of change”. Steve pushed back on that with an argument that computer’s still operate in binary, the web is still HTML and the internet runs on TCP/IP same as it did 20 years ago and it was at this point I began to see the truth of the cleric’s point of view.

why change is the new normal (c) 2011 James StanbridgeIt is not really change that exhausts us, is is the shrinking, ever shorter attention spans and the need to be agile that is hard to keep pace with but accepting that really nothing significant has changed at all will keep you sane.

These then are the tenets of change as I have discovered:

  • Change is a label for a thing called opportunity. Opportunities multiply as they are seized
  • Nothing ever changes, except the label
  • Yesterday you needed for yourself and your tribe to be fed, be healthy, to prosper, to serve purpose and to enjoy one another. You’ll need that tomorrow, come what may.
  • Change the method (label) often – but shoot for the same result all the time
  • Einstein is still right – The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results (change the method)

The core message of this post, along with the others this week must surely be that you cannot spend too much time in thinking about “what the result you are looking for?” Stay focused, prioritised on this and the changes of label or method you choose to achieve it.

I for one would not want to roll back the clock or technical progress where I was not as intimately connected to the world as I currently feel thanks to twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. – the price I have to pay is the attention span I can have for such an enormous constituency and fluid change of agenda – but I have found ways to take energy from it and not just become drained by it. The secret is to jump in, Go! start now.

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UPDATE

And just in case you need more evidence of the changes (in this case over the past 50 years): http://www.ted.com/talks/roger_ebert_remaking_my_voice.html

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how people and leaders embrace corporate change (or not)


change = opportunity; If you are not willing to fail, you won’t get very far.

All very easy to say but so much harder to do. I like to differentiate my blog as practical tools and coaching for leadership, so here are some thoughts on how people deal with change.

In my experience there is a 3 stage process that folks typically go through
1) can I simply ignore this?
2) who won, who lost?
3) what now (for me)?

1) in figuring out if this is something that can safely be ignored, the organization is viewed in hierarchy terms – did we shift the chairs on the deck of the Titanic? Are we addressing something fundamental and acknowledging a revolutionary change in direction? are we dressing up ‘status quo’ as change? At it’s most basic “so what?” needs an authentically compelling answer.

As leaders driving change – answer these questions with integrity, and perhaps revise your change plans accordingly! the default for all our staff is to find a way to safely ignore the change. Just because you sent email, held all-hands etc. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you have communicated change – you merely broadcast it.

2) Who won? Who lost? I’ll leave it to qualified analysts to explain the Psychology but I know for sure this is the most vigorously debated around the water cooler and between the thought leaders in your teams. Don’t shy from this fact. Folks make accurate judgements about leaders who pretend a loser won. Thank someone for their hard work, dedication etc if that is true – but anything more is nauseating and will mark you down from potential followers perspective.

Mine for opinion here, you might find an opportunity to correct miss-perceptions or amplify correct assumptions. The bottom line here is that the decisions the organization makes are a clear indication of prevailing culture and intent. For better or worse, pay attention to that fact.

We are often too squeamish to call out the winners – yet, our tribes like to be on the winning side – I mean, who doesn’t? so set up your new leads or strategy guardians for immediate success by identifying their wins and successes in recent work and influence. Help establish their constituency.

3) What now? Critical question, but be prepared to answer “what’s in it for me?” at a micro level. Yes, as a leader you need to be able to talk at a macro level, say “share holder value” for example, but truly great leaders will personalise the message so that every single individual feels like they are on the vital mission of the corporation. Impossible to over invest in the importance of this last piece and it takes a lot of energy from the teams managing the change – but, if you can tell the story of “what’s in it for me?” at the most atomic – your changes will be compelling and sticky.

When you fail to properly tackle any of the above you invite folks to ignore the change you hoped to drive, worse, you reinforce their ability to do so with weak or low authenticity messages.

A more general observation here would be to avoid grand sweeping statements of change if for the audience you are addressing, not much in their day job changes. Again, you must bring rigor to your change in clearly identifying who there is going to be a change for and not get carried away in your own importance by implying that shuffling the pack will create a new suit or extra picture cards etc etc.

Finally, most change is long overdue – so all the above not withstanding, go! start now.

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from wanting change to getting change


Full disclosure: I strongly prefer revolution to evolution. Generally speaking, events roll slower than I would like and with less drama than I would prefer. Perhaps because of this I have developed

  1. the veneer of patience
  2. effective strategies for getting change implemented.

sidebar: I do believe that evolution is the natural state of the world, that left to itself, situations evolve. The revolutionary can have an impact as a force for change that occurs more radically, fundamentally or profoundly; which is something I can’t help but be drawn to

I’ve had many conversations with colleagues who are nervous, anxious about change, even change they deeply desire but seem unable to embrace or execute. Of course, part of the problem here is that we all call for change, can think of things we wish were different but the catch comes when that change requires we change ourselves! Barak Obama famously won election to President of the USA on a “Change” ticket – and is feeling the full backlash of an expectation that stuff would therefore change, but is almost wholly unable to influence individuals to change their own behaviours.

  • Know what you want (answer this question: “What do I want?”)
  • Invest in self awareness so that you can make yourself available to what really matters to you and that you can model the change you want
  • Build followership and alliances that support and energise your change

Let’s start then with wanting change – look around you 360 degrees and boil to one theme that captures what you want to change. I’ll use something by way of example that I hope resonates; as I look around me, I want to change the level of trust that colleagues have in one another to move from ‘functional’ to ‘high’

I’ll assume you have a good baseline or metric to determine the current state – I have internal poll data that I would use.

Now for getting that change implemented, Go First! in no other aspect of the leaders practise is it so important to lead from the front and model the behaviour you desire in others yourself. In the example I have used, trust is about being predictable and reliable (see separate posting on Trust)

Make yourself available to the situations you take most energy from as a default. In the example I used here, building trust means investing in situations that have trust as a defining theme or issue and diving in to really expose difficult issues and address resistance or head-in-the-sand avoidance head on.

Don’t be shy – talk about what you want often and with passion, make clear your vulnerability. Keep your eyes and ears open, as you speak and write about trust you should spot where you can build alliances with engaged colleagues around you. Enlist! Enthuse! Energise!

References:

[The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team]

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Bruce Patton

Permalink: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/014027782X

@Yodaism: “If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are, a different game you should play.”

The bottom line on effect change is to know what it is you want to change which requires some degree of self awareness, following that go – start now!

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