A Must for Successful Change

Frequently I get the opportunity to work with people going through enormous changes in their workplaces. Sometimes, the change is strategy or technology related. Other times it can be a major restructuring or even the process of marrying two merged, but quite different organizations. Regardless of the change which is occurring, I often see people get caught in a trap that can only lead to frustrations and problems. The trap is the belief that although the organization is dramatically changing, they (the individuals) do not have to. For some reason they believe they can plug the same old person they have been, into a brand new organization. People sure want this belief to be true, and certainly try hard to prove it. Trouble is, it just does not hold up.

People find a great deal of comfort in their current organizations. They usually know what is expected of them, probably have some capabilities to do the work, and have likely developed a network of relationships which can help them succeed. In big change, all of this familiar territory can quickly vanish. Now people now have to get clear on new roles, responsibilities and expectations. They also have to determine what really needs to be done and then figure out new ways to get that work done. They have to build new relationships and more often than not, develop new skills. Bottom line – they, too, have to change.

You must be mindful about this, when you are involved in or leading change. People (maybe including you), will be drawn back to what is familiar and comfortable, and to what they are good at doing. It is not that they do not like or agree with the new direction, they just want to stay in their old sweet spot. There is that biblical example of the futility of pouring new wine into an old wineskin. We must all realize we cannot plug the old “me” into a new organization, and expect to succeed.

As a leader of change, make sure you do not preach to people only about how the organization will be different. Remind them that they too must grow and become different as well. Then avoid spending all your time on organization charts, financial spread sheets, and all the other mechanical tasks. Devote meaningful time to listening to and supporting your people, helping them identify and more courageously pursue the “new me” they need to become.

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