Be the Change…

“…if those minds aren’t focused on the moment, details get missed, stuff happens and the next thing you know Scott Adams is mimicking your last product launch in color.”

Change is constant in today’s corporate world. Organizations can thrive by balancing the need to impeccably deliver their product or service, with the need to transform and innovate. But change can be painful. Just read the latest consultant’s report in your inbox, or look down at the Dilbert[1]calendar on your desk; the struggle to execute change is common and the excuses are recognizable: not enough time; not enough money; not enough skilled resources; we didn’t understand the vision; we definitely weren’t clear on the impacts…and on and on. I would like to suggest a different approach.

Over the years, I have tried to follow a few simple rules whenever I have had the chance to drive innovation and change. Regardless of the methodology you use, I believe these basic rules can help to prevent painful change from happening to you.

BE the Customer, BE the Employee, BE the Shareholder…Om.

As a child, Einstein imagined what it would be like to travel side by side with a star[2]. He had the imagination, but he didn’t have the math and physics he needed to figure out how. So he questioned the established principles and broke through with his own revolutionary theories. He put his vision, ahead of the science, and it all came into place.

It is important to imagine, as well as understand, what your change means to you and your customers. What will the service representative experience? What will the customer experience? How is it expected to increase profits? Which operational processes need to change? No question is irrelevant. They need to be asked and answered. That thought process, will bring new perspectives about the opportunity. From there, healthy change and innovation will follow.

Know the path…or at least bring a flashlight.

Many of you take for granted that sleepy walk to the coffee pot or the juicer every morning? You do it in a semi-conscious state and the risk is low because you know the path. How many of you would take the same approach during a hike up or down a steep mountain or canyon, or when walking through a busy New York intersection? Be aware of what can go wrong. If you don’t know, ask and don’t be afraid of the answer. What are the operational constraints? Does it need to be included in the monthly reporting? Does this impact other customer capabilities or experiences not included in your scope?

The important lesson is to be aware…not beware; don’t introduce fear. Introduce learning and understanding. Knowing the potential risks eliminates fear and uncovers the unknown. It is not about knowing what you don’t know; it is about using what you do know to light your path to success.

Say it, write it and then make sure you…and everyone else, reads and understand it.

Simply stated, it is not enough just to document the requirement. Basic psychology teaches us if we hear something, we stand a chance of remembering it… write it down and your odds are greater; experience it and the success rates increase dramatically. You need to follow the requirements (each one) through to delivery, through every phase, and ensure it is accounted for at every step of the lifecycle, before it goes out the door. More importantly, imagine what it would be like to experience the impact of that change.

Be Present…or you will have to continually deal with the past.

We have all seen the funny YouTube videos of the average corporate ‘conference call’. As art imitates life, the conference call can be totally void of any substance. Nothing may have been accomplished but you can claim you held it and people came. I know you have even found yourself sitting on a call, having to explain why you didn’t hear the question because ‘your boss was messaging you and emails need to get out before end of day, and blah, blah, blah’. It really is unacceptable; yet we have all done it.

The workforce is filled with so many bright, capable and creative minds. But if those minds aren’t focused on the moment, details get missed, stuff happens and the next thing you know Scott Adams is mimicking your last product launch in color. Never let the Conference Call Multitasker, be you, especially if you sent the invite. The time you saved doing two things at once, will be spent fixing what you broke. By the way, this item is always on my personal growth plan and although I may not always be successful, I am trying to improve. Multi-tasking is not always a good thing.

Plausible deniability is a cop out! Wake up.

History is filled with hindsight (you can quote that) but that won’t help when explaining your failed efforts. The next time you find yourself saying “I don’t / didn’t know”, ask yourself “why not?” Change happens fast and more often than not, we cannot afford anecdotal evidence of how something is supposed to work, or the “possible” impacts of any action. When we look for short-cuts, we should not trim diligence and validation. I am not suggesting 100%, all the time; it is not feasible. However, if you took care to follow the previous 4 principles, then this part is easy. You understand why you are doing something; you have investigated the challenges; you documented and tracked requirements; and your resources were focused…now you just need to make sure things happen as expected.

I have had the good fortune of being involved in a number of amazing transformational efforts, with a direct seat at the table over my 25 years of corporate life. Most importantly, I have had the privilege of representing the Customer. It is an honor that I have taken very seriously.

So why not try this: with so many bright, passionate, intelligent, creative people out there, instead of spending the time thinking about the things you lack: exercise the 5 rules above and then marvel at the fact that you were able to get the most out of everything or everybody you do have. You will know you did it by being as aware, as focused and as effective as possible. As a result, your journey towards your destination will be much more successful than what you ever imagined.


[1] Cartoon by Scott Adams

[2] Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

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