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Change is Disruptive

More often than not I’m in a business environment in a context of suggesting or implementing change.  So I hear a lot of “let’s change but not disrupt”.  But the reality is that change IS disruptive.  When you change something, however big or small, you’re doing differently what you did before.  So, depending on the scope of change, you disrupt a single task, a methodology or even a series of business processes.  I’ve learned that there’s no denying change is disruptive.  But there is a need to emphasize change is productive.

Change is Productive

Incorporating change into your business should be productive.  The reason to implement change should be to improve or attempt to improve a return, performance, level of satisfaction, etc.  These improvements can be realized with new products, new markets, new revenue models, new processes, new people, etc.  Growth (revenue, margins, market size, etc.), capacity to scale, and increased business value are then the results of productive change.

Change is Part of Your Corporate Culture

To implement change your corporate culture, the internal thinking, should support the belief that change is productive.  As a business owner or leader, it’s important to foster an environment conducive and supportive of change.  How?

  1. Ask “how will this improve objectives?”
  2. Build mantras.
  3. Create reassurance.
  4. Bring in new perspectives.
  5. Improve don’t blame.

Foster an Environment of Change

Build a change friendly attitude and make the focus about the positive results expected with proposed changes. Establish each employee’s, team’s and department’s impact on the expected results.  Make the conversation revolve around “how will this improve objectives?” and not “why are we changing?”.  By engaging staff in asking the “how will this improve…” type questions it shifts the discussion from the unknown to the certain, i.e. results will be enhanced.

You can help your team navigate the uncertainty and ambiguity that usually comes with change.  Create some mantras that reflect the key reasons for fostering change or the top 3 results expected.  Communicate them, publish them and repeat them.

By reassuring your team you can help them navigate change.  There are a number of reasons for exhibiting discomfort with change.  But the primary driver for avoiding change is the uncertainty of something new, something different, the ambiguity of what might be produced.  The unrest about change can be distracting.  You can help build confidence in change by consistently communicating results, focus on what is certain and constantly checking-in with staff.  Pose questions about what they think, how they feel, how they think things are going, etc.

Regardless of the dynamics of any particular group the creativity and receptiveness to change decreases the more time the group stays the same.  Roles and positions become entrenched over time.  Gradually the individual perspective is replaced by collective thinking.  Fresh perspectives allow for new ideas and better solutions.  Fresh perspectives can take the form of a diversity in hires, speakers and even contributors. Consider bringing in key clients, advisors, stakeholders and even facilitators for pivotal and more strategic discussions.  This will lend for a richer discussion and an ability to realize more creative change.

Change should be considered after either an assessment of recent results or analysis about how to improve performance.  Make the discussion about improvement not blame.  Enable the discussions to start from a point of “what can we learn from this”, “what could we have done better” and “where can we make improvements to get even better results”.  Efforts are then focused on analyzing and problem-solving. The challenge is that when asking “how did we do” people normally interpret this as a judgement call: did we do well or did we do poorly? The natural tendency is then to avoid blame and defend actions taken.

  1. Ask “how will this improve objectives?”
  2. Build mantras
  3. Create reassurance
  4. Bring in new perspectives
  5. Improve don’t blame.

Summary

As a business owner you want to build shareholder value, increase performance and improve results. To do this change will be a necessary part of the equation. Assume that change is disruptive but not destructive. Reinforce that change is productive.  Help your team understand the benefits expected with change.

Shift the focus to what’s certain and facilitate change.

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