Mastering the Forces of ChangeWe are under pressure. The waves of change are breaking upon our personal shores harder than ever before in the history of man. Customers, bosses, subordinates, co-workers, friends, spouses, children, and society as a whole demand more and different from us every day. There seems to be no safe harbor as lay-offs and divorces disrupt the very fabric of our lives. We question, “What can we do?” “How can we master the forces of change?”
People and stones have one thing in common. They both resist change. A stone can find a home on the ground and nothing short of an earthquake or flood will shake it from its rest. But, then, a stone is not alive. It can only be the building and not the builder. People strive to build the world around us. And the enterprises we build may last for days or for lifetimes. As the world changes, those enterprises may adapt, grow, and flourish or they may wither in the glare of obsolescing change.
Asking to master change is like asking to master the wind. While we cannot stop the wind, we can understand it, minimize its damage, and maximize its value. We can set our sails and our course to reach our destinations or we can batten the hatches, set the anchor and ride the storm. The challenge is to understand what to choose and who to follow as our navigator through the storms. Our companies, our families; our lives depend on how we choose. Here are four things you should know about change to help you choose. They range from reactive to proactive and all are important in their own way.
1. Understanding the forces of change.
Not all of us view change the same way and even good change is stressful. Most people will do their best to maintain the status quo to avoid the need to spend their precious energy. Change is hard work at best and frightening and unsettling at its worst. It's only a matter of degree. We all have a personal change bank. No, not the little pig with quarters, pennies, and dimes, but that reserve of energy that allows us to accommodate change. For some people, it's small and almost anything will trigger a reaction. For others, the change bank is like Fort Knox and they feel broke if they're not floating in a sea of change. Understand that one man's delight is another man's drowning. Understand where you and your people are when you ask them to take on additional change. You can even help them build more reserves by being an understanding and supportive manager rather than just a taskmaster. Remember the straw that broke the camel's back. On any given day,we can be overwhelmed by even the smallest of change if our reserves our low.
2. Riding out the storms of change.
Here are some tactics for you when you are caught in the storm.
A) Let your family know what's going on and ask for their help. This is far preferable to making them guess and suffer with your short fuse.
B) Jettison useless baggage. Check your priorities and get rid of things that are burdening your job and your life. Simplify and survive.
C) Talk about change. Teams and organizations in particular need to talk through the issues of change.
D) Understand the need to vent anger and concerns. You can deal with what you see.
E) Be a leader and a model or follow one.
F) Be optimistic and realistic. Walk the tightrope of balance.
G) Accept the fact that all change is stressful and take steps to reduce your stress.
3. Sailing before the winds of change.
Make hay while the sun shines. If your industry is changing, everyone else is suffering too. The more quickly you can respond and adapt, the more likely you are to win. Companies are wise to bring together their best minds to understand what's going on and what might be. Use organized meetings to focus on the situation. Find the challenges and opportunities and create plans to take advantage. You will need to focus on the present as well as the future to see which way the wind is blowing and how hard. NOTE: You may not be able to describe everything that's going on but you should be able to identify what you know and what you need to know.
4. Setting new directions to the future.
American businesses are so driven by the next quarterly report that they often neglect to look very far to the future. The real winners not only sail before the winds of change but they also chart new courses for others to follow. They are the market makers, the inventors, the change-agents, and the leaders of the new tomorrow. They thrive on change and eat improvement and growth for lunch. This takes vision. Get out of the box. Take off your watch. Look to the future. And use structured and highly effective change processes such as Creative Problem Solving to set the new directions.
The great civilization that built the pyramids that have stood for over 4,000 years is now so dispersed as to be essentially invisible and much of their technology has been lost. Our enterprises too will turn to dust if we do not keep them alive by mastering the forces of change.
As a leader you can look to the future to show the way for your people.
They are waiting for your leadership.