Two Models for Change

Reflecting this week on the challenge of change.

I was having a discussion with a senior leader about what group of teammates should lead  an organizational change.  This is who we we’re looking for:

“It’s part Engineer, part Pied Piper, part Cruella de Vil, part oh I’m running out of analogies but part that guy or gal that does the thankless spreadsheet based tracking work that no one recognizes.”

The unstated assumption: Change is hard. Finding someone to lead it is even harder.

And that’s the way most organizations think about leading change.  In this model, change is tough: you need to fight hard and keep struggling in bring it to life; it takes ingenuity, grit, and determination.  The key question is this: do I have someone with with the skills and capability to lead this change?

But I think it’s also worth reflecting on areas where change is easy.  

Every year, across the country, millions of people get married, have children, earn graduate degrees, switch careers, change cities, and start new projects.  These are huge shifts–with ambiguity, difficulty, and substantial cost. And yet, they happen–every year, for millions of people.

Why?  Because in this moments, people want to change.  They think the change makes sense; it’s something they have an emotional connection to.

And, for most people, most of the time–if we really want something, we find a way make it happen.  

We know the same thing happens with organizations.  Recently, my office made a substantial change, that affected the behavior of every employee every day, that had 95%+ adoption with zero enforcement.  

We changed the dress code to be casual, to allow jeans.  It happened immediately. Easy.

In this model, change is natural: it follows directly from our intentions.  When we want something enough, we change.  The key question we have to ask is: Am I framing this shift in a compelling and meaningful way?  Am I being honest about the things I say that I want? Am I taking the actions consistent with my intentions?

It’s worth considering both models.  Change isn’t always hard.

May this be encouraging as you make the shifts you’re planning!

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