Change is Good

Change is Good

changeYou may be a member of a civic club or company which has operated in the same way over a long period of time. You may have observed that your club membership is not growing and maybe even shrinking. In the case of a business, sales are not what they once were. You may feel as though you are trapped and need to make some changes but you sense some resistance. To quote Mac Anderson and Tom Feltenstein, Change is Good… You Go First.

Creating change in any organization is difficult. As that organization grows and becomes more successful, the leadership which made it successful is replaced by management, who intend to maintain that success. That maintenance is the management of the status quo. Today’s world is in a constant state of change and that cannot be ignored. Members of civic organizations find their membership is shrinking in numbers and new people are not interested in joining. Businesses are seeing their once robust growth beginning to turn downward. Customer needs are changing. The reasons people join associations and clubs have changed. Methods of communication are changing as quickly as new technology is developed.

It would be very surprising if plans to initiate change were not met with resistant. The comedian Bill Cosby has said,” I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” One of my favorite Rotary Clubs is located in a small rural town in North Carolina. They met once a week in the evening for dinner and after a while there were very few at the meeting. The Club President knew that something had to change or the club would cease to exist. He noticed that, as the town decreased in size, many of the residents work out of town. In fact, one of the members was an airline pilot and the town was located at least an hour away from the nearest commercial airport. As a bold move, the President decided to move the meeting to a Saturday morning when folks were in town. The reaction was that change several members decided the leave the club. That was unfortunate, but not unexpected. The change to the new meeting time helped that club continue to be of service to the town. New members joined and new projects were developed.

In the business world, this resistance to change can become more dramatic and painful. Think of the leadershiprecent changes at General Motors where entire car lines where discontinued, plants closed and people laid off. Could these drastic actions been avoided if the need for change was recognized years before and leadership taken action? “It’s easier for companies to come up with new ideas than let go of old ones.” said Peter Drucker. That need to let go resulted from a change in the competitive nature of the environment which may have been recognized but not acted upon.

At the heart of successful change is leadership, whether it be in a Rotary Club or General Motors. If there is no leadership, change cannot occur. The leader has to truly believe that the change is necessary and inspire others that the change can be successfully accomplished. He or she must embody the change in everything they do or say. If you are emphasizing the need to control costs, don’t fly first class or stay in the fanciest hotels. I once worked for a firm where many of the management team had grown wealthy as a result of years of well managed operations. They all lived in nice neighborhoods and were members of the best county clubs, but they drove Chevrolets to the office. Their leadership set the culture for the organization.

In times of change, there is a great tendency to take on more tasks than are required.  Prioritize that which must be done and focus on the few most important items. Move to complete those items as quickly as possible. Don’t let them drag on for months on end. The enthusiasm developed through leadership can easily get lost and the change will fall short of your expectation.

Remember to measure and reward accomplishment. That which gets measured gets done. In a civic club, it might be the number of people at a meeting or the successful completion of a new project. In business, it may be the attainment of a sales goal or the successful restructuring of an operating unit. Don’t take anything for granted, report the result of those measurements to all involved and celebrate success. It is a common practice in many offices to celebrate birthdays by having a cake. Why not have a cake for the successful completion of a project or the achievement of a business goal?

Always be ready to reinvent your organization or business. The secret is to anticipate and make the necessary changes before they are needed. Take time to view your organization as an outsider or as a customer would. Think of it as looking at your business from across the street. An organizational coach has a number of tools to help you get this process started and we encourage you to contact us for a discussion of their use.