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The three rules of implementing change
August 26, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
In business and life, it is a given that change is relentless – that adapting to change is not only the key to success but essential for survival. Yet, implementing change, even minor change, is seldom met with open arms. The constant companion of change is resistance. Let’s face it – it can be difficult to let go of what has become comfortable, familiar, and predictable and step out into the unknown. We humans are simply creatures of habit. We love our routines. When we encounter change, we get uncomfortable and begin working as quickly as possible to adapt to change so that it becomes routine and comfortable again.
In business, change is about two factors: achieving next level growth or changing in order to survive. Survival change is scary because emotions are high, confidence is low, and the sense of urgency is often excruciating. Change to get to the next level is more organized and calculated, driven by a sense of urgency that is more motivating and inspiring than it is scary. The key to both types of change is to create a culture that embraces change with as little resistance and push-back as possible.
The very first Strategies Incubator course was held in 1994. To this day, our four-day Incubator course is dedicated to implementing and driving positive change and culture shifts in business. The first day still includes a segment entitled “Reengineering” where we deliver the three rules of reengineering and change. These three rules are even more valid twenty years later because the pace of change is constantly and relentlessly accelerating.
Here are the three rules of reengineering and change:
Rule Number One: Be prepared to go all the way or not at all. You cannot reengineer or change half way. No one person, group, or system can be excluded. You must be prepared to go all the way – or don’t reengineer or change at all. Too many leaders fail rule number one because they refuse to put every person, group, system, or solution option on the table. They try to drive change while protecting and excluding key people or business practices from the process. Foolishly, some leaders want everyone else to change while they continue the same compromising thinking and behavior that created the mess in the first place. Change must be all-inclusive. Everything must be on the table to be reinvented or cut. No compromise.
Rule Number Two: Don’t expect new behaviors and team performance if your pay program still rewards the old behaviors and performance you’re trying to change. I have been a champion of this thinking for 40+ years. Well-designed compensation systems reward overall performance in areas such as critical numbers, skill development, culture, teamwork, and individual strengths. Too many leaders become obsessed with just performance and critical numbers – things they can measure. By doing so, they are missing the most powerful two categories that actually drive performance and critical numbers. It’s “culture and teamwork” and “individual strengths” that deserve the attention … and form the basis for meaningful financial reward and compensation. Simply put, if your compensation system rewards sales, you may get the sales along with a lot of stuff you don’t want. Simply put, every change initiative requires reengineering your pay system to ensure that it rewards the right thinking, behavior, and performance. No compromise.
Rule Number Three: Relentlessly communicate the new vision of the business and its new culture, values, systems, and pay program. Rule number three is the single most overlooked and undervalued of the three rules. Change and reengineering is about taking your company to a better place. Maybe it’s that elusive next level or maybe it’s out of the fiery pit of financial hell. Either way, absolute and collective clarity on the new vision needs to exist, along with clear-cut images of what the new culture must look like, what the new shared values are, and how new systems will improve how work is done. Most important of all, of course, will be helping everyone to comprehend and embrace your upgraded pay program. Change begins with a vision. Relentless and persistent communication after launching a change initiative maintains a sense of urgency and nurtures the culture shift. Too many leaders hit the launch button, forget about relentless communication … and wonder why their big change initiative crashed and burned in record time. Simply put, a leader’s primary responsibility is to relentlessly communicate the vision of the company. No compromise.
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