“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” – Machiavelli (1532)
The above is not quite the most famous “end justifies the means” quote from the prolific Italian philosopher of the 16th century, but a quote nearly 500 years later that still rings true. For something that happens every day, change is a very difficult concept for many to understand. There seems to be this natural reflex against change that must be overcome in order to grow and evolve into something better than the previous state. This process is scary, detested, and forbidding.
Yet, without change… growth stagnates and complacency exists, and thus change becomes a paradox, feared but good.
“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction” – Winston Churchill
There are many challenges to change in the right direction and often come with trade-offs in an organization. For example, a change towards better products and higher profits may impact the pace of delivery or the effectiveness of the workforce. As a facilitator of change, it is necessary to step back and examine the impact of the change as a whole and allow for a more systemic adoption, rather just micro-effective outcomes. Organizations that focus on the narrow impacts may not necessarily see the effects that change has on an unexamined area. Failure to see these impacts cause resistance and fear which can erase all the desired benefits of such change.
So if the organization desires growth and the ability to implement good change it is imperative that the entire change initiative be examined and fully considered regardless of the change. Not all changes must come with the scope size of restructuring, mergers, or fundamental philosophical revolution. It can come in the small form of implementing new programs that can maximize the leverage of the business competitive advantage.
When change occurs in the “right direction”, it brings conviction to the organization. Not only are the programs adopted, but also the philosophies of the business are realigned to take advantage of this new state, and the business evolves. Quality and timely communication of the new philosophies are paramount to the success of the change, and the organization. It is critical to explain to customers, both internal and external, the benefits of these changes and gain rapid adoption of the new philosophy.
In “Success Factors for Lasting Change”, Maya Townsend says:
“One of the most helpful ways to embed change into the fabric of the organization is to create goals that are specifically linked to the success of the change effort. These goals help personalize the change and make it clear to each individual how she or he contributes to helping the organization evolve. Ideally, the goals begin at the highest levels and link to organizational strategy. Then, they cascade down through every department to every individual so all employees can see how they help the organization achieve its strategies.”
While the above concepts may be a blueprint for the avoidance of change, that strategy will quickly leave a business behind its evolving competition. Change moves quickly, and the pace of change is quickening ever still. For example:
- 2004 – Facebook created
- 2005 – Twitter is founded
- 3 years, 2 months and 1 day (time for the first billion tweets)
- 1 week (time today for users to send a billion Tweets) [Twitter blog]
- 2007 – Apple iPhone released
- 2008 – 26 million Facebook Users
- 2009 – 175 million Facebook Users (Inside Facebook Feb 14, 2009)
- 2010 – 400 million Facebook Users (Mashable Feb 4, 2010)
- 2010 – 500 million Facebook Users (Mashable July 21, 2010)
- 2011 – 687 million Facebook Users (Inside Facebook June 12, 2011)
From 2008 to 2011, in only 3 years, the Global cultural adoption of Facebook has been astronomical. This nearly 2,700% growth in adoption of Facebook technology of the last 3 years has completely dictated a cultural change in how humans communicate. In those same years, the numbers for iPhone adoption (73.7 million) and Twitter users (200 million) have grown equally as dramatically amplifying the impact of this change.
This change in communication is systemic. Facebook, Twitter, and other “social media” may seem a bit scary for business at first. It may even be something that requires significant consideration or has been considered but not quite on a systemic level. There is no denying we have fundamentally changed our way of communicating, so it is only natural for business to evolve to philosophical embrace this change or face stagnation, or worse, being left behind. The evidence of change is quite clear, and the time to act is now. Embrace the change and thrive.
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” – CS Lewis