There are a lot of wonderful quotes on the subject of change. Some of my favorites are:
“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – J. Edwards Deming
“Things will get better – despite our efforts to improve them.” – Will Rogers
“Change is not a problem to be overcome. It is the essence of business success.” – From Complexity and the Nexus of Leadership by Goldstein, Hazy, and Lichtenstein
“Change is debilitating when done to us, but exhilarating when done by us.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter
“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” – Richard Teerlink
“No organization is so screwed up somebody doesn’t like it as it is.” – Anonymous
“He stayed the same as before, but the same was no longer befitting.” – Cicero
“Change is good. You go first.” – Dilbert
“If you can’t learn to love change, at least learn to live with it without whining too much.” – Jim McClelland (I had to include one of my own)
There are three basic reasons for change in an organization:
- Sometimes we initiate change because we see an opportunity – including an opportunity to improve or innovate.
- Sometimes we initiate change because of something we think or fear might happen.
- Sometimes we are forced to change in response to something that has already happened.
We’ve had plenty of examples of all of these in our organization, as over the years we’ve tried an enormous number of different ways of growing our businesses and accomplishing our mission. Some of those initiatives have been wildly successful, some have worked out reasonably well – at least for awhile, and some have been miserable failures. But we’ve learned from all of them. Over time, this approach has resulted in a culture in which change is normal and expected, though certainly not always loved and embraced.
In his book, Managing in a Time of Great Change, Peter Drucker wrote, “Society, community, and family all try to maintain stability and prevent, or at least slow down change. But the modern organization must be organized for innovation, or ‘creative destruction’. We should periodically ask of every process, product, procedure, and policy, ‘If we did not do this already, would we go into it now, knowing what we know now.’ If the answer is no, then we must do something – plan abandonment.”
The first time I had to shut down something I had started, it was difficult. Over time, though, as an increasing number of our initiatives have outlived their usefulness, we’ve become pretty good at it. Of course, we always try to minimize the impact of those changes on our people, and I’ve concluded that the more we can help our employees learn and grow, the better able they will be to adapt to the changes they will face – in our organization, with other employers, or in other aspects of their lives.
Continuous learning may, in fact, be one of the keys to effectively adapting in an era of rapid change. As Eric Hoffer wrote, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future, while the learned usually find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”