Just Don’t Call It Change

I attended a very interesting forum yesterday. The topic was what they termed the “triple bottom line” of sustainability: Environmental, Economic and Social. The members of the panel were from varied industries and sizes of companies and all had unique stories and perspectives on how they have approached sustainability in a way that truly benefits everyone. It was thought-provoking and I intend to write some more about it in a different post.

However, a comment that one of the panelists made leapt out at me. In telling how some of the changes that the company had made and continues to make to enhance their sustainability, they had found that couching the efforts as improvement instead of change had a significant impact on the feelings that other team members had about the efforts and their buy-in.

As she said at the time, “No one wants to change, but who doesn’t want to improve?

Consider the approach many companies take to processes like strategic planning and re-organization. In a high percentage of cases, the plans are mapped out and codified in private, often without the other team members or employees even aware that a re-organization is about to take place (strategic planning tends to be a regular occurrence, but still mostly opaque to the greater organization…). Once everything is “baked” and the messaging and new structures and org charts printed, then it is rolled out to the company, along with the high-level jargon explaining why this has to happen, the flexibility of the industry, the need to stay “lean and mean” and so on.  The company may try to paint it as improvement, but most times it is called change, presented as such, and the corporate truck rolls onward.

This is scary stuff.  Change just is.

I believe that the difference between change and improvement lies in the perception of directions and actions taken, and whether the leadership has “brought along” the rest of the team.  That’s the difference between something presented as New and something presented as The Next Thing.  While there’s nothing wrong with New, sometimes the emotion New generates feels sudden and abrupt. The Next Thing feels more like a positive, forward movement along a journey.

Clear and open communication with the others in your organization while the leadership works through the plans and intricacies can help to make  The Next Thing more clear and less scary. In fact, to the degree that the leadership team engages with the rest of the organization during the process, asking for ideas, input and opinion, the more the journey becomes their journey, too.  The Next Thing becomes Our Next Thing.

I really want to be part of Our Next Thing, don’t you?

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