As we all know, the only two things that are certain in life are death and change. Knowing that, why is it so hard to accept change both in our lives and at work?
Jack Walsh, a former CEO at General Electric (GE), was the one that said, “Change before you have to.” For me, that makes accepting change a lot easier. Why? Because it’s me making the change happen instead of the change happening to me.
For example, I live in a small village in New Mexico. It’s so small that we only have one four-way stop with no traffic light. We have most amenities we need: a couple of gas stations, a few restaurants, an auto parts store, a health clinic, and two dollar stores. Yes, you read that right, two dollar stores.
I liked having one dollar store in the village, but two? When the second one was being considered, many of the residents asked why. I was told by one of the town council members that he opposed the store coming in, but the others on the council said that it was “progress.”
Now I agree with progress and change, but this second store caused a family-owned and beloved general store to close. This store provided not only most of the same goods that the dollar stores did, but it also carried sporting goods and hardware goods that neither of the two other dollar stores offer. This “progress” was change happening to the village instead of the village managing change. Even though this change impacted most of the community, only a few individuals were the ones that voted it in with little or no consensus.
Let me get to the point. To make change happen smoothly, it requires collaboration. When Jack Walsh implemented change within GE using business process engineering principles, he ensured that staff at all levels were involved in making the change happen instead of the change happening to them. This resulted in buy-in even for those employees that saw that the change would involve them losing their jobs.
But that’s not all he did. Jack continued to rally his troops, giving them encouragement and support every step of the way. He continually shared a vision that all employees could buy into and believe in. It was a change they would make and be proud of.
If you’re a leader of an organization that needs to change or is in the middle of change, make sure your staff is behind it. Provide them with a vision they can understand and stand on. Get all of them involved in the change in some way, either by being actively involved or informed at every step. But don’t stop there. Schedule all-hands meetings to rally the troops and re-cast the vision. Manage by walking around, asking individuals and teams how they are doing, what they think, and how you can help them in their change journeys. Remember, change needs to involve and have buy-in from everyone it affects.
As for my village, we survived. We didn’t like having the wrong type of “progress” forced upon us, but we’re making things work. Now we need to travel 30 miles instead of one mile to get hardware supplies to make home repairs.
At netlogx, we help our customers navigate change within their organizations. We can provide staff, tools, and methodology to help you “change before you have to.” Contact us today.