Is it time to change fundamentally? How do you know when that might be? Should you effect change now or not? Why are you changing? What will the costs in time, money and energy?
When life goes sideways, we think we need to make a change. Often, we have no idea what change we should make or how to go about making that change but we think fundamental change is the answer. How do we know?
Solution? Clarify and Understand.
What’s the problem exactly? Once the problem is clearly stated, preferably on “paper”, it is time to search. Clarity leads to focus. And hopefully, it also leads to open minds using eyes and ears to support an open mind. And here’s a trick to clarify:
in 60 words or less describe the problem – not more than 60 words – if you can explain an issue in 60 words or less, you understand it and it will be crystal clear what the issue is
Does anything fundamental need to change or is it just a matter of finding a new approach? Answers don’t always mean change; sometimes, it just means applying what you know in a different way but that’s not the same as change. For example, if you look at sports. The game is the same. The rules are the same. But a new technique of accomplishing the same thing – one hand basketball shot as opposed to a two-handed approach to score – does not fundamentally change the game of basketball – it just adds another method by which a player scores. The goal is to score and win.
Here is an example of change. Coca Cola wanted to solve a problem. What was the problem in the first place – did they know?
They chose change. So they brought in a new coke. It bombed. Coke lovers around the world wanted their “Classic Coke”, not the “New Coke”. Obviously, the coke formula was not the problem – they still had plenty of people who drank Coke in the first place.
A fundamental change was not necessary.
What were they trying to achieve? Greater market share? Adding to their line of products? Retiring old products? There were many other ways Coke could have achieved what they wanted without changing the fundamental formula of their product – more creative promotional ideas, maybe a new way of communicating with the marketplace or hundreds of other “answers” as opposed to “change”. It cost Coke plenty in so many ways to make an unnecessary change.
Fundamental change, therefore, is often unnecessary. Stats and strategic planning and analysis and . . . . . all the other paraphernalia taught in high-priced universities and colleges cannot replace the ability to achieve clarity based on experience, imagination and teamwork (education is a place to start, not a set pattern of making the right decisions).
There was someone in the Coca Cola company who was saying it was a bad idea to change fundamentally (there always is), but none of the decision-makers chose to listen to any argument against their “idea” – often that is the case.
So, when there is a problem to solve:
- clarify the problem – know exactly what is to be resolved – it’ll save you a lot of money, energy and time in the long run
- listen to all ideas – you never know who will be offering the best one
- make the atmosphere safe to present contradicting opinions and consider every person’s opinion at all levels of the organization as a valid point of view – the one opinion disliked the most could be the key to resolving the issue – there is wisdom in every corner of an organization
- keep asking the most important questions of all: Is fundamental change really necessary or is there something else we should be thinking about?