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Change Management. Six Lessons.


1. Change Sucks: To anybody who says change is good there is only one human answer. “Things are fine thank you and if you want to change go ahead my friend!”

Let’s get real and recognize that change is venturing into the unknown. Change is going up a learning curve. Change is difficult. Change is not good but rather it is necessary. The more you want things to stay the same you have to change.

2. The future does not fit in the containers of the past: Most organizations have been structured to optimize the past. They have developed processes and measurement that ensure that yesterday is brought to a fine shine while tomorrow slips away. The importance of re-thinking organizational structure is key. Is your company one that can respond or is it only an instigator and distributor? Is your firm agile enough to partially or wholly re-invent it self or is it a Groundhog day solution repeating a worn out mantra in a new day?

3. The world may be digital but people are analog: Every theory is easy but people get in the way. We seem to forget that while computers are silicon based digital computing things, humans are carbon based analog feeling things. To change they need not just facts but meaning, stories, emotions and inspiration. True change leadership incorporates, understands and leverages the human reality.

4. If you want to see changed behavior, change the incentives: The biggest learning from the book by Steven Levitt called Freakonomics was that the best way to predict behavior was to understand incentives. So many leaders wax poetic about change but do not change the incentives. People will do what they are rewarded for and if you want tomorrow but incentivize or measure yesterday your organization will be humming a Carpenter tune…”yesterday once more” again and again.

5. The only way a company changes is by changing peoples mindsets or changing the people…. and companies find it is easier to change the people: While strategy, acquisitions and investment in new technologies and innovations that can create competitive advantages are critical, the rubber hits the road with the quality and mindset of the talent. Successful organizations find a way to upgrade, attract, retain and inspire people to change. Unfortunately, many people do not change and sooner or later the business realities overcome them and they find themselves out of a job. Do not resist the force of change. Align with it.

6. Success requires perpetual re-invention and forgetting some of yesterday guidelines. Today the successful individuals are in perpetual beta. It is imperative to learn new skills and question silly thinking. For instance if scale mattered how did a 40 person Instagram have a higher valuation than Kodak? Is it speed or the lack of speed that kills? In an age of access does ownership really matter? And surely when you barely have time to have relationships with your loved one do you want to have a relationship with a brand like say “Tylenol” or do you want to just have your headache go away?

Rishad Tobaccowala is the author of Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data which has been published globally by Harper Collins.

One comment on “Change Management. Six Lessons.

  1. Kerry OConnor says:

    Thanks for sharing the wise words and thinking behind them. I imagine they are the fruit of some painful lessons.

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