A dubious consulting industry and “profession” has developed, claiming to provide “change management” services. Those two words make about as much sense together as “holy war”, “non-working mother”, “mandatory option”, and “political principles”. Many of the books, models, theories, and “processes” on change have come from staff support people, consultants, or academics who’ve never built a business or led an organization. “Change management” comes from the same dangerously seductive reasoning as strategic planning. They’re both based on the shaky assumption that there’s an orderly thinking and implementation process which can objectively plot a course of action like Jean Luc Piccard on the starship Enterprise and then ‘make it so’. But if that ever was possible, it certainly isn’t in today’s world of high velocity change.
Successful Change Flows From Learning, Growth, and Development
Change can’t be managed. Change can be ignored, resisted, responded to, capitalized upon, and created. But it can’t be managed and made to march to some orderly step-by-step process. However, whether change is a threat or an opportunity depends on how prepared we are. Whether we become change victims or victors depends on our readiness for change. One of the inspiring quotations I’ve used for my ongoing personal improvement quest came from Abraham Lincoln (his decades long string of failures in business and politics before becoming one of America’s greatest presidents is inspiring itself). He once said, “I will prepare myself and my time must come.” That’s how change is managed.
We can’t crash-cram in a few days or weeks for a critical meeting or presentation that our key program, project, or even career depends upon. We can’t quickly win back customers who’ve quietly slipped away because of neglect and poor service. We can’t suddenly turn our organization into an innovative powerhouse in six months because the market shifted. We can’t radically and quickly reengineer years of sloppy habits and convoluted processes when revolutionary new technology appears. When cost pressures build, we can’t dramatically flatten our organizations and suddenly empower everyone who’ve had years of traditional command and control conditioning. These are long-term culture, system, habit, and skill changes. They need to be improved before they’re needed. In the words of an ancient Chinese proverb, “dig a well before you are thirsty.”
Problems that you, your team, or your organization may be having with change aren’t going to be improved by some “change management” theory. To effectively deal with change you don’t focus on change as some kind of manageable force. You deal with change by improving you. And then your time must come.
Resistance to today’s change comes from failing to make yesterday’s preparations and improvements. When we, our teams, and our organizations fail to learn, grow, and develop at the speed of change (or faster), then change is a very real threat. If change finds us unprepared, it can be deadly.
Your Personal Change Process
Do you have the improvement habit? Are you a lazy learner? Do you act as if your formal education was an inoculation that’s left you set for life? Are you a dedicated life long learner? Are you constantly on the grow? Do you devote at least ten percent of your time to improving yourself? Where is learning and personal development on your list of time priorities? Is it a luxury that you get to occasionally or is it a carefully scheduled and regularly planned activity?
These are critical performance questions. They are personal change management questions. Your answers determine your effectiveness in dealing with the fast changing threats and opportunities that are popping in and out of your life.
If you can’t manage your time and discipline yourself to devote at least ten percent of your time to personal improvement, you don’t deserve to be a leader. You deserve to become a victim of the changes swirling around us. Get control of your time, priorities, and destiny. But you better do it soon. Tomorrow is arriving much quicker than it used to.