About a year ago, I worked with an organization that “did everything right.” As we discussed the presence of numerous organizational best practices, executives as well as team members produced examples of how each element made up their day-to-day operations. You could feel the excitement as each group described their strong leaders, happy customers, and opportunities for engagement. As the day wore on, one topic never surfaced: change.
At the end of the day, I asked the Director of Organizational Transformation how the organization deals with or prepares for change. She smiled and said, “we have things right, so we do not need to worry about change.” Over the next few days, I found out that the “perfect” organization had neglected preparing for change. Out of a comprehensive professional development curriculum, not a single change management course existed. When events necessitated some type of change, a few executives decided on the change and weaved an explanation of how it corresponded with the current practices and direction of the organization.
This year that organization dissolved because their market changed.
Most of us dread change and go out of our way to avoid it. We talk about never growing up, changing what we like, or selecting a new favorite food. Nevertheless, it is impossible to hide from change. As the environment changes, we have to change to survive as well as to perform at the same level or better. If the competition improves, we have to determine how to compete at that level. If our talent pool changes, we have to adjust. If morale decreases, it must be proactively addressed.
Those organizations that stand “the test of time” combine an appropriate level of “tradition” with a strong ability to manage change. In other words, these organizations adapt to change while preserving the core elements that made it great.
What can we learn from the “perfect organization?”
- Change will find us all not matter what we hide behind, including other best practices;
- Monitoring and successfully adjusting to change is one of a successful organization’s core competencies;
- All levels of employees need to possess change management skills;
- Part of empowerment includes trusting our employees to devise and implement methods to create change;
- Change should be viewed as an opportunity.