Change is hard. I am amazed by the number of people and organizations who can intellectually grasp the importance of change, but they cannot execute it. I have read about statistics about the small percentage of people who change their lifestyle (diet, exercise, smoking) after having a heart attack. They must intellectually understand the negative implications of their lifestyle, but they cannot bring themselves to change even when the consequences include another heart attack or death.
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There are plenty of examples of organizations that have been unable to adapt. I live in Evansville, Indiana, and Family Video just announced they would be closing all stores. This video store outlasted Blockbuster and Hollywood Video by years. However, I have to think they saw the writing on the wall years ago. Video stores have been dying for years, especially as streaming services have grown in popularity.
I was recently in a debate about the future of movie theaters. Unless movie theaters distinguish themselves, they will also die. Many of us forget that movie theaters became popular nearly fifty years before the general public started getting televisions in their homes. As TVs, sound systems, and streaming services continue to improve, it becomes harder to justify spending the money on movie tickets and concessions.
When leaders look to create change, they must first create an urgency to change. They need to consider how they can instill a sense of urgency in those around them. Most people and organizations will not change for the sake of change.
In John Kotter’s classic change management book Leading Change (2012), he identifies the first step of change is “Establishing a Sense of Urgency.” Kotter writes, “Increasing urgency demands that you remove sources of complacency or minimize their impact: for instance, eliminating such signs of excess as a big corporate air force; setting higher standards both formally in the planning process and informally in day-to-day interaction, changing internal measurement systems that focus on the wrong indexes; vastly increasing the amount of external performance feedback everyone gets; rewarding both honest talk in meetings and people who are willing to confront problems; and stopping baseless happy talk from the top.” (pp. 44-45)
The COVID-19 pandemic created urgency for many organizations to change. They understood their short and long term survival was dependent on their ability to change. Examples of changes that have occurred include virtual meetings, remote work, churches live streaming services, restaurants adding curbside pick up, and contactless delivery. Many organizations had considered these changes but never felt urgency to implement them.
How is your organization responding to change? Does your organization experience the urgency necessary to change? If not, how can your organization remove complacency that prevents necessary change to occur?
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T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.