While many people fear change, my biggest fear is staying the same. If you told me I had to do the same job, live in the same city, or be the same person for the next ten years, I would be despondent. It would likely require some funny cat videos to cheer me back up. Maybe some Ben & Jerry’s, too.
“We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.” –Max De Pree
While I don’t know what I want to become in 5 years, 10 years or 20 years… I do know that I want to be better and do better every single day. I can be more present in my interactions with friends and family, more active in my community endeavors, more inspirational as a leader, and more knowledgeable about the world.
And that requires continuous change. It is important to remember that the word change does not necessarily imply better. It does imply different. Change doesn’t guarantee success but it gives you a fighting chance.
The accelerating pace of change
It is no longer enough to change… we need to change at the pace of the external environment. And everything is moving faster, driven by technology advancements. It took over 30 years for 40% of people in the U.S. to adopt landline phones. It look less than 5 for smartphones to reach the same level. Super exciting times.
1900 to Present (BlackRock)
Agile companies will eat everyone’s lunch
I have a visceral reaction to the phrase “that’s the way we have always done it”. While it does make sense to take the time to understand and appreciate what works about the current approach, it does not make sense to assume that what one did five years ago or even six months ago is still the best way, given the rapidly changing external environment.
Companies must learn to move at the pace of the external environment or risk declining revenue and consumer relevance. Of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1955, only 12% remained 60 years later. Not the best odds. And the rate of turnover on this list has increased in recent years due to technology innovations disrupting incumbents in existing industries and creating new industries. Agility will be the biggest predictor of whether a company thrives or declines.
So what does that mean for leaders?
Change is hard and uncomfortable for many. By definition it introduces uncertainty and requires growth. But it is better than staying the same and letting others define one’s destiny.
What if we thought of change as an on-going process? Versus a one-time event we have to endure.
What if we measured leaders on how well they build teams that feel confident questioning the status quo and trying new things? Versus how well they play in a predefined sandbox.
We, as leaders, have a responsibility to our people to set the expectation that change is an ongoing process and help build their comfort and skills at managing and embracing change. Because the journey is change.
And now for the obligatory Powerpoint: