CHANGE is inevitable. We know it, but we don’t have to like it.
I had a conversation with a person who has been in his position for less than a year. His manufacturing organization was not up to date on best practices in the industry. As we discussed the many changes that he and his supervisor had brought to the organization, I asked what I thought of as the key question: “How receptive were the employees to these new ideas?”
He said most of the employees were very receptive to change. They recognized—because most had never worked anywhere else—that they didn’t know what they didn’t know. They had not seen alternative ways of doing things, nor had they been challenged to think of ways to become more efficient, either in terms of costs or time.
My conversation partner is fortunate. How many of us work in environments where people appreciate and even embrace the idea of doing something different? It’s probably not what you see in your office.
Unfortunately, many of us work in environments where employees do everything they can to protect the status quo. Occasionally, you see this quote on LinkedIn: The seven most expensive words in business are “We have always done it this way.”
I’ve been the external dean in three different business schools. In one of the schools, faculty described themselves as stuck. They’d been doing the same things the same way for years, and had forgotten how to make improvements. They weren’t looking externally to see how other business schools were doing the standard things all business schools do. Other schools were changing, but this school was not. I saw the school as ripe with opportunities. While some of my colleagues agreed, many were fearful of change. What would this mean to them? How would their day-to-day work be impacted?
I want to get snarky sometimes and say things like: why are you driving a car today and not a horse and buggy? Why are you glued to a smartphone? Do you cook in an oven or over an open fire?
Technological change is occurring at an increasingly rapid pace. If we don’t keep up, we’re behind. So I guess I have a hard time understanding why we’re so resistant to change in the workplace. It’s going to happen whether we’re ready, or want it.
I’m a self-described change agent. It’s what I do best in an organization. I bring new ways of looking at things and ask many questions. Many people appreciate this about me, but I do manage to scare some folks. And it’s why I have left jobs. Once I have made the changes I know to make in an organization, I’m ready to do it again somewhere else.
What about you? Do you embrace or endure change? If you resist it, how do you expect your organization to compete in an increasingly competitive environment, no matter what your industry?
I work in one of the most change-resistant industries around. And I worry for our future as I look at what’s happening in places like the University of Alaska and the University of Akron. Those places are bellwethers, and we’d better be paying attention. Change is coming, whether we like it or not. I’d rather disrupt my organization than have someone or something else disrupt us. What about you?
And if you happen to work in a place where people are receptive to change, celebrate it! You’re blessed.