I’m working with a client that’s trying to reinvent itself. At one time they had an edge, one that made people perk up and take notice. Over time, they went from forward-thinking and innovative to cautious and bureaucratic. This is the narrative for many organizations, unfortunately. This client is slowly regaining their edge, not by adding unnecessary stuff like technology and catch phrases but by getting in touch with who they’ve always been and living from that place again.
The closer I get to the organization, the more I see the complexity and reality of the situation. Marshal Goldsmith once said:
“After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years, people become invested in defending them rather than changing them.”
Yup! Go to enough meetings, observe the political dynamics in action, feel some of the dysfunction and THAT feeling starts to set in. That feeling leads to this question: “Can I really change anything here?”
The idealist in me says, “Yes!”
The cynic in me says, “Probably not.”
The more mature, seasoned creative in me says, “You’re asking the wrong question.”
Let’s go with that for a minute, the words of the mature, seasoned creative.
If “Can I really change anything?” is the wrong question, what question should you ask?
“Can I change one thing?” That’s a much better question.
Why? Because the answer is always YES!
Trying to change the whole because it’s not working is like trying to swallow your dinner in one bite because your hungry. It’s not possible. You will waste your time trying. Instead, grab a fork, snatch up a small problem, chew it up and swallow. Then, snatch another problem. And another. Until you’re left with a happy plate.
What can you bite off right now? That’s the question you should ask. And how do you focus on the problems that meet the larger goal?
So, you can’t change the mind of your senior leader in one meeting. Can you change the out-dated poster on the wall? Then do that.
You can’t change your company’s culture overnight. Can you show up everyday with a positive perspective? Then do that.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” as the cliche goes. But, as author James Clear says, “they were laying bricks every hour.”
I love this. It’s easy to focus on the big picture and miss the transformative power of laying another brick.
Those examples are specific to me, I know.
My point is we have things in our sphere of influence and abilities we can change right now. And this is where we should start. This should be your focus. This is what I want my whole team thinking about. If we all align, in time, we’ll see change.
That’s how it is with successful change management. It doesn’t strike, it accumulates. Laying bricks is unimpressive and, in the moment, appears useless. But if you attack one problem every day for a month or a year, then you start seeing change.
Success doesn’t strike, it accumulates.
Success doesn’t strike, it accumulates.
The posters change. The photos change. The designs change. The way we tell our story changes. The videos change. Staff changes. Then, sooner or later, people change. Mindsets change. And you realize a much larger shift is occurring.
This is true of change in company cultures, but it’s also true of change, in general. If your marriage is struggling, it’s tempting to think your relationship will never be healthy. But rather than focusing on the big picture, find one thing you can do right now.
Apply this principle to your faith or your health.
* * *
Laying bricks isn’t sexy. In my younger days, I tried to hide this reality. I don’t anymore. Truth be told, this stuff is hard. It takes time and effort.
I have a quote I revisit by Kevin Ashton
“Creators spend almost all their time creating, persevering despite doubt, failure, ridicule, and rejection until they succeed in making something new and useful. There are no tricks, shortcuts, or get-creative-quick schemes. The process is ordinary, even if the outcome is not. Creating is not magic but work.”
So, what’s in front of you right now that you can alter and change for the better?
Stop trying to change the world. (do you know how hard that is?)
Stop the hallway discussions about the dysfunction. (do you know how unproductive that is?)
Stop the fixation on the big problem. (Do you know you’re giving your creative powers away?)
Instead, find ways to put your fingerprint on as many small things as possible. Invite those around you to do the same. If the changes are part of a larger goal, you’ll experience change at greater scale.
I would love to hear from you. Do you have some wisdom to share about navigating change? Leave a comment below.
CJ is founder and CEO of Bamboo Creative. He’s a northern California native, lover of big ideas, and passionate about advancing good.