What would you like to drink?
Constant change is here to stay!
I was looking for the correctly attributed source of the quote: “Constant change is here to stay.” recently and I failed to locate one.
I had assumed that it would be a fairly recent quote associated with the increasingly fast-paced world we live in. Then I came across a similar quote that shows how long this thought has been around. It’s been around for quite a while it seems!
“There is nothing permanent except change.”
~ Heraclitus of Ephesus
(Greek philosopher, 535–475 BC)
Some years ago I was working with the leader of an organisation that was struggling with this issue of change. The organisation had been declining over several years, and they had started some discussions on a vision for growth. It seemed that everyone knew that change was needed for the organisation to remain healthy and to achieve growth, but it seemed that no-one was willing to do anything differently to make that happen. Every time we would meet the team would agree that something needed to change and decide what needed to be done about it, and then the team would go away and actually do absolutely nothing about it; nothing would change, they would do nothing differently.
I am reminded of a cartoon illustration that I came across on a Website showing the “Top 13 Change Management Comic Strips” that seems to illustrate the problem we all confront when seeking to introduce change. Most people can and will recognise the need for change when it’s necessary, but being part of that change can be very challenging for all sorts of reasons, and finding people to become involved in leading the way with change can be very difficult.
We decided to conduct an exercise to illustrate the point for this team. As the meeting was getting started we asked each of the team what they would like to drink, and we had jugs labelled “water”, “tea” and “coffee” to dispense their preferred beverage. When they had indicated there preference and received their drink they discovered that all of the cups contained water, not the tea or coffee that they had ordered.
Now the illustration was designed to show that what we say we’re going to do, and what we actually do, can be quite different things. To unpack the illustration we explained that the water represented what we were doing currently. The tea and coffee represented the different activities we had agreed to use to address the changes we needed to implement, yet so far nothing had actually changed. Despite talking about it (labelling the jugs) the team were all still doing nothing differently (the jugs contained water, not the new beverage).
My career as a Project Manager has taken me through more than my fair share of changes since every project involves a change in one form or another. When I was starting out as a project manager I learned all about the Cost-Quality-Time parameters that every project addresses. What do you want to do, when does it need to be completed, and how much do you have to spend. However, it became apparent that these issues were really only half of the problem. The other half included all of the people issues, involving both the staff working on the project and the stakeholders that would be affected in some way by the project.
“We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership. It might help if we ran the MBAs out of Washington.”
~ Rear Admiral Grace Hopper
The really important thing to learn about introducing any change is that things can be managed, but people need to be led. Take a piece of metal and bend it, and it stays bent. Write a computer program and it will continue to do as it’s instructed forever. The same isn’t true with people. People are more like an autopilot; you can change direction temporarily but let go of the controls and they will revert back to their previous default direction. Only by changing the autopilot can you change the default “hands off” direction.
To achieve this needs leadership to Inspire and Influence people to want to change their default direction. I’ve written about those topics elsewhere, (see for example: “You take the high road”).
Do you want change? You’ll need to find and empower people who want to change and invest in people who want to lead the change. “You manage things, you lead people.”
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.