Years ago I was in a meeting with our team reviewing the rapid changes in our training and consulting business and sorting through our priorities for the coming quarter. We had doubled our already substantial business over the past 18 months. While the growth was exciting, it was also exhausting. We were piling on new programs, services, and organizational changes.
I don’t recall anything from the meeting except a rich conversation that ensued after I said, “Once we get through this crazy period and things settle down again…” I stopped myself. “Haven’t we been saying that an awful lot lately?” I asked. Heads nodded around the room.
“I guess we — or at least I — have to get my head around the fact that this crazy period is normal and will be with us for many years to come,” I reflected aloud. This led to an animated conversation. We needed a seismic shift in our thinking. The right approach was not to just plow through change, toward some mythic future period of stability. We agreed that we need to see constant, unpredictable, and tumultuous times as a normal and ongoing part of our company’s life.
We need to thrive on and in our turbulent times.
As so often happens when you’re newly attuned to an issue, not long after that meeting I came across a highly relevant remark. It was from Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. (Since Warren said some very nice things about my book, The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success, the man was clearly brilliant!).
Warren observed, “I can’t recall a period of time that was as volatile, complex, ambiguous and tumultuous.” He then quoted a top corporate leader of the day as observing, “If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on.” See: your confusion about our crazy, topsy-turvy times just shows you know what’s going on!
Have you caught yourself saying things like, “Once we get the new position filled … the restructuring is complete … the project is finished … the new software is installed … I get organized, things will settle down again?” Do things ever settle down? Of course not. And they never will.
Leadership, learning, and pulling together are vital to dealing with constant change. Tomorrow we publish my October blog posts in the November issue of The Leader Letter. I hope those themes in this issue inspire and support your continuous change and development efforts.