When you feel compelled to slow change, wait on change or apologize for making “yet another change” you are receiving a very important signal. That signal is your culture is not where it needs to be.
Over-concern, hesitation or “throttling” change is a sign your culture lacks transparency, engagement and resiliency – all leading indicators of future profit margin. In a Gallup study, highly engaged companies enjoy 22% MORE profitability and 21% MORE productivity.
Leaders, especially in technology, should accelerate change, not slow it down. Instead of slowing change, work on speeding up your culture. Investing in your culture is the answer to how you prepare for a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. The answer is NEVER slow change.
When you strengthen your culture, do it with the goal of not simply being able to tolerate change, but in a way that allows your teams to expect, anticipate and thrive on change. Simply put, the companies quickest to change win more. PayPal began as a cryptography company. After years of trial and error they became an online payment platform and were acquired for $1.5B. Microsoft has had horrendous failures. Failures they changed and responded to. Anyone remember Encarta?
Or how about a non-technical example… Think about your own personal health and fitness. Imagine you are out-of-shape and sign up for a fitness class. You are frugal so you buy the cheapest membership option and pre-pay for 6 months. For the first 3 months, you get frustrated at the trainer for constantly changing your workout. Thinking “why can’t we just keep doing push-ups”. The reality is you are out-of-shape and not adaptable to new exercises. But a funny thing happens. Over time, you gain strength and conditioning. Then, you realize you ONLY grow when the Trainer changes things up. Then, you are able to push new limits and find out what you are really capable of. You crave MORE change.
Back to technology, consider these 5 practical tips to grow a culture that thrives in change:
1) Set the expectation. Leaders should speak to the value of change and why it is a competitive advantage in group settings and privately, in smaller settings. Most things start with making the expectation clear to everyone.
2) Improve storytelling. Change is much easier when you understand why you are changing and what needs to happen. There is art and science to improving the corporate stories we tell. They need to be candid, transparent and easy-to-remember. You hope that you create many micro story tellers throughout the organization to replay the message.
3) Invest in an adaptable team. Build your teams around individuals that adapt to change and can role-model that behavior to everyone else. You will have some folks that do this natively, some that can acquire the skills through training, but the majority must see it and benefit from it first.
4) Be empathetic to the various personas impacted. It’s not just a cliché TED Talk. Not simply using empathy tools, but authentically believing in empathy is a great way to be mindful and considerate to the various personas involved in change. Think, “bring people with us” and not leave the folks that are “not on the bus”.
5) Always run after the goal & purpose of the change. It is critical for change to be firmly (not loosely) connected to the vision, goal and prior-agreed-to principles. Accelerating change is not a free pass or blank check to be indecisive. If you are terrible at strategy, constantly changing will not help you.
I hope this information is helpful. I see far too many people pushing to slow change. It’s not malicious or intended to sabotage the company. They simply are stuck in old habits and attempting to recreate their great grandmother’s cabbage role recipe.
What are other ways to build a culture that embraces constant change?