There is no end zone.
Doing change work there always comes a point early on, when structural changes have been announced and are almost complete, that someone will say, “Okay, the change is done. Now let’s get back to business.” After quietly chuckling to myself, I remind the person that this is the moment when the hard work begins in earnest. When it comes to leading change, there are yard markers and milestones; but there is no end zone.
It is now almost cliché to say that change is constant. That doesn’t make it any less true true. We need to adopt a change mindset that acknowledges this reality. When the change takes the form of a particular initiative (a reorganization, a merger, or acquisition), changing the structure or systems and processes is the easy part. The fact that some think that this is what change entails is indicative of what needs as much, if not more, of our attention if we are to lead change successfully.
Adopting a change mindset moves us to see change as normative and ongoing. A change mindset enables us to see that change efforts must address cultural issues and leadership and workforce development as well as structure and systems and processes. In fact, cultural issues and leadership and individual development will make or break any change in any organization. A change mindset keeps these things in mind and has built into it a flexibility and willingness to make adjustments to implementing change as a result. It also has built into it an intentional and continuous curiosity about how people are engaging and performing in relationship to change.
Knowing that change is normative and ongoing also moves us to develop a skill set that supports our continuous work as change leaders. Effective change leadership requires that we have a capacity to think carefully, feel fully, and communicate effectively. When it comes to leading change, the competencies that flow from these skills include:
Managing Complexity – We want to be able to find meaning in confusion, think strategically, and solve problems quickly.
Innovating – We want to be able to promote creativity and positive disruption.
Communicating – We want to be able to design, convene, and host necessary and important conversations.
Executing – We want to be able to set goals and objectives and direct operations to achieve them.
Transforming – We want to be able to generate awareness and promote growth in ourselves and others.
A change mindset and a solid change leadership skill and competency set will support us in leading change over the long haul. It’s vital that we are working toward this goal; because, change is never done. Getting back to business means getting ready for the next change. And the next. And the next. There is no end zone.