It's Time to Change Change

You change a light bulb when it burns out. You change buses, trains and airplanes when the one you're on won't take you to your desired destination. Athletic teams change head coaches and players when the team isn't winning.

Organizations change when...?

If you immediately thought, "when things are broken or not going as well as we want," your view of change is like that of most people. And, that view dooms you to always playing catch-up in the marketplace.

The best leaders, organizations and teams don't view change as a negative. They seize it as an opportunity to prove their continued relevance and strategic value in a competitive marketplace.

Yes, But How?

The idea of proactive and positive change is appealing. Who wouldn't rather work on innovative solutions for the future?

Unfortunately, the time and resources to focus on the future are often sacrificed when your team is running as fast as it can to meet current demands.

You want your team to be simultaneously focused on making the present work while bringing the future to life. They, on the other hand, may want a binary "this or that" focus that does not apply in a chaotic world.

You won't change make positive, proactive change a competitive advantage overnight. You can make progress by taking these four actions:

1. Change the conversation
The word change, along with its negative connotations, exists everywhere. You will never completely erase it from your vocabulary. You can substitute change used in a negative connotation with other words that reinforce the positive aspects of adapting to stay relevant.

Some groups use the language of continuous improvement. Others talk about innovation. A few others simply talk about adding value as a strategic partner with their business partners.

And they talk about it all of the time. They devote time in staff meetings to involving everyone in discussions about how to make things better or new trends. They expect people attending conferences to present the ideas they learned upon returning. They create time for people to share ideas about what works and ways to make things better.

Changing the conversation, over time, reinforces that change is something that we do every day to get better and not only when things are broken.

2. Reinforce new ideas that promote change
What gets reinforced gets repeated. So what are you reinforcing when it comes to new ideas that promote change? Are new ideas welcomed and applauded, or are they pushed aside with, "We've never done it that way before," or "I'll take that under advisement"?

Try this exercise: Ask your team to list the "idea killer" phrases that they have heard in their careers. Involve everyone. New ideas are killed from every level, not just by managers.

Most groups can come up with an extensive list of phrases and words in a matter of minutes.

Next, list the words and phrases that promote and reinforce new ideas and change. Experience shows that this list is significantly shorter.

Most important, make a conscious effort to reinforce new ideas and language that promote change as a positive opportunity.

3. Change the consequences
Who gets promoted? Who gets the merit increases? Who gets the opportunities to work on the cool new ideas?

It may become necessary to deal with those who do not change their view of change in a corrective manner. But that isn't the best initial approach if you want to engage people to adopt a new perspective on change.

Most people want to do a good job. They want to help the team get better--and they will if given the opportunity and ability.

4. Work on your own time and perceptions
How do you think and talk about change? How much time do you invest in studying trends or thinking strategically about the future? How often do you talk with your colleagues and customers about what is possible rather than what must be done to keep up with current demands?

The present should be guided more by the future than the past. The leaders, organizations and teams that make change work don't view it as a negative. They embrace change as an opportunity to prove their continued relevance and responsiveness in a competitive marketplace. It begins when they change the way they think about change.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker and leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. His keynote seminars and workshops are informative, engaging and memorable. To learn more or to hire Randy for your next meeting, visit, email, or call 972-980-9857.