#258: Is Your Ability to Manage Change All That Important?

Plus Bonus Whitepaper

Man’s base of knowledge is increasing at a logarithmic rate; in the 1900’s it doubled every five years, and after the year 2000 man’s total knowledge will double every 20 months!

Manage Change - Buggy

As man’s base of knowledge grows, the pace of change also increases. A recent survey showed that the average worker processes 24 times more information now than just 10 years ago!

The person who is expert at managing change will have a distinct advantage in the 21st century. If you manage change and lead others to manage change, then you have the tools necessary to be a leader in your industry. If, however, you have a high “RC” factor (resistance to change) and are incapable of inspiring others to change you will be left at the side of the road as others speed past you.

If you don’t believe the pace of change is increasing, consider the following:

From the beginning of time until the early 1900’s man’s primary mode of transportation was on foot, or astride a burro or horse. Suddenly, the horseless carriage burst onto the scene, and man all but gave up walking, and his favorite steed was put out to pasture. Automobiles have become interactive computers with their passengers capable of covering in minutes the distance covered in a day by the horse.

But automobiles are nothing compared to the history of flight. Man went from the historic flight of the Wright brothers in 1903 to supersonic flight by 1947 to space probes in 1959 to the first manned space flight in 1961 to manned shuttle flights by 1981.

Think for a moment about these few changes and how the majority of change has occurred in the last 50 years. Entire industries no longer exist that had been major players in the world economy for hundreds of years. Entire new industries have developed in their place.

Increasing knowledge increases the rate of change. The life cycle of industries is compressing at a rate that is inversely proportional to the rate of change. That is, the faster the rate of change the shorter the industry’s life becomes. Dinosaurs are extinct because they failed to adapt. Is your company a dinosaur? Are you?

Moses & Change

Imagine, Moses is out there tending his sheep, and suddenly he sees a bush burning that isn’t consumed by the fire. A few minutes later God is explaining to Moses how Moses is to lead Israel out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery.

Sometimes leaders initiate change; sometimes it is thrust upon them.

After a lot of negotiating (plagues, famine, pestilence) with Pharaoh, Moses finally secures the release of the nation Israel. So, Moses set out as the former slave sheepherder leading a nation of 600,000 men plus women and children to the Promised Land.

Despite all the miracles they have just seen, the Israelites waste no time complaining to Moses about the conditions in the desert. They would rather go back to slavery than risk their lives getting to their own land!

Sometimes people undergoing change can see the benefit of the change, but they don’t want to endure the pain and suffering that may be required to achieve the end result. They would rather go back to the “old way” of doing things than work through the change in order to have a better future.

Over the next two weeks, the people complained about the food and the water. They kept thinking about all the meat and vegetables they had back in Egypt.

Even in the midst of change people will complain bitterly that the “old way” was better.

Moses, at his father-in-law’s suggestion, set up judges to hear the complaints and settle the disputes among the people. Only the most difficult cases were to be brought to Moses.

Leaders who are managing change must not get so involved in the details that they lose sight of the vision. On the other hand, leaders need to stay in touch with employees so that they understand what the people are going through.

Moses then receives instructions from God about the way the Israelites are to live (their laws). Moses gives the word of the law to the people and goes back up the mountain. As soon as he leaves them, they begin to make golden calves to worship. Despite the miracles of the parting of the Red Sea, their provision of food and water, and their military victories these people left unsupervised started worshipping false gods.

Change, especially significant change, requires constant supervision. Monitoring the organization’s progress on an on-going basis is the only way you can be sure to stay on track. Don’t initiate a major change with an announcement and then walk away from the people and expect them to manage the change on their own, they need leadership!

It took 40 years for the Israelites to make it to the Promised Land. Most of the changes you initiate will not take so long to complete. But you should be prepared to go the distance to implement your changes. When Moses set out from Egypt, he probably figured the journey would take 2-3 weeks, not 40 years. A leader who initiates significant change will have to deal with bitterness, complaining, unforeseen obstacles, and a myriad of other problems, but if the vision is clear, change can be achieved.

One Final Thought

Change is implemented in groups, but it occurs one person at a time. Remember that change creates stress because of the perceived change to the individual. A change that creates little perceived change will be met openly, a change that is significant will likely be met with high resistance. A perceptive manager understands that change happens to individuals and will adapt to help individuals see and accept the need for change.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 7-page whitepaper entitled, Managing Change—Your Key to Success in the 21st Century!

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion on managing change, including:

  • Examples of rapid change in industry,
  • 7 elements of the anatomy of change, and
  • 11 Steps to promote acceptance of change in your organization.

You can download the whitepaper here: Managing Change—Your Key to Success in the 21st Century!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you experienced organizational change in your career? What went well? What went poorly??

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Category: Skills | Change



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