The Myth of Change by Chris Westfall
This marks the beginning of a new Switch and Shift series on how organizations need to change to succeed in the 21st century. Throughout the series authors, like Chris Westfall, leadership and business bloggers and practitioners will share their views on how businesses need to switch and shift to thrive in our rapidly changing world.
How long does it take for an organization to change?
“At our company,” you may be thinking, “change takes a long time.” Maybe even forever. Do you believe that “Change doesn’t happen fast enough around here”?
Why? Why does it take so long for organizations to change? It seems counter-intuitive: if the organization exists to generate profits for its stakeholders, wouldn’t the company be constantly and keenly interested in change?
Well, change doesn’t necessarily mean progress.
Change for change’s sake isn’t a good thing. (“We’re nimble! We’re agile! We’re confusing the marketplace!” – sound familiar? If not, you aren’t involved in mobile app development, I guess). In fact, aggressive change can breed chaos. My friend Dean Lindsay, author of The Progress Challenge, explains it this way:
If I meet you for the first time, and you’re looking for change, I could punch you in the stomach. Definitely, something’s changed – but have you made progress?
Sometimes, changing within a culture can feel like a punch in the stomach. Where’s the positive outcome? Most of the time, people (and organizations) view change as painful – but, it’s necessary, right? So how do we (as individuals and as corporate citizens) overcome the fear that keeps us from what we need? No, not a punch in the stomach, but positive change that makes a difference for the organization.
What if you were prepared for the change that’s coming? What if you were ready for what’s next? What if you, as a business leader, had conveyed a clear and cogent picture to your team, your customers and your marketplace?
Entrenched cultures or entrenched management (two symptoms of the same disease) can choke innovation and progress. That chokehold is based on a set of perceptions and entrenched values that will be shattered in future posts here on the SwitchandShift blog. But let me start the conversation by squeezing the fear out of a common myth that we all share:
People believe that change happens slowly.
The fact of the matter is, change doesn’t happen slowly at all. The idea of “slow change” is a myth.
Change happens in an instant.
Think about a dramatic change in your life. The phone rings, and the doctor has your test results. The email comes in, and you see that you just landed a customer that will double your business in the next year. (Here’s where I’m at right now: the DMV gives your little girl her license, and – BOOM! – change happens so fast it’s just a blur). Are you experiencing any changes in your life right now? We all are!
These changes are virtually instantaneous. Yet, preparing for change, living with change, and coping with change: these scenarios can take a lifetime.
If you want to be an advocate for change, understand that a shift can happen when you switch your thinking. Change is all around us; some may identify this status update as “chaos” – or a punch in the stomach. As a business leader, it’s up to you to create opportunity through change. And that change can happen in one brief shining moment. My question for you is: Are you prepared for what’s next?
The key takeaway here is to get ready. Ready yourself, ready your team and ready your customers for what’s ahead.
Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, says that “The very essence of leadership is you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully…You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
Visionaries see the change that is coming, and they work to create an environment where that change is embraced and enabled. Change comes to us on a moment’s notice – sometimes unannounced – and instantly, everything is different. How will you be ready for that shift, and what message can you convey to your employees to shatter the myth of snails-pace change?
Consider the “trumpet” that you use. As you communicate your vision, let your words be the preparation your team needs for the challenges ahead.
Some changes can feel like a punch in the stomach; some changes create opportunity beyond our wildest imagination. An old friend in college used to say, “Prepare for the worst, but don’t expect it”. Perhaps it’s time to change our words, if we want to change our results.
Why not prepare for the best? Let your team know that the kind of change you expect is the kind that creates powerful opportunity for all.
Change comes quickly to those who prepare. Make sure the people that matter to you are on alert; in an instant, you could need to Switch and Shift for new opportunity. That is, if you’re ready for it.
Connect More with Chris
Chris Westfall is the national elevator pitch champion, and the author of The NEW Elevator Pitch (Marie Street Press, 2012). He has appeared on CNN, ABC NEWS, NBC and in the NEW YORK POST. He is an award-winning MBA instructor at the Cox School of Business at SMU. Find out more about him at http://westfallonline.com or on twitter @westfallonline
Photo taken by Shawn Murphy