Why Change Requires Timing – #3 of Mike Lehr Series

mike_lehr_leadership_speakerIn this 3rd article in a series, change management expert Mike Lehr expands on why so many firms fail at change. He pulls back the strategy of change to show how firms even ignore some basic steps when it comes to implementing their strategy.

Mike is the owner of Omega Z Advisors, LLC. where he helps leaders navigate their business cultures and internal politics to bring change.

We talk with Mike about change rollouts that started with avoidable handicaps. Mike states, “A decision alone from high level executives nor well thought out plans will solve these these easily avoidable handicaps. A good strategy is nothing without good implementation.”

Greg: Mike, let us say a firm has a good strategy for change. Are there some basic steps firms tend to overlook when it comes to implementing it?

Mike: Yes, Greg, there are. One of the most overlooked is timing. I am not talking about the schedule in the strategy. I am talking about when to begin the change rollout.

Greg: Are you saying there are good and bad times to begin?

Mike: Yes, Greg, there are. People tend to be more primed for change at some times over others. For example, let us look at an extreme first. The best time to change is when there is a crisis. Crises are very good at making people see change must come.

Now, while this might be the best time to rollout change, crises might not allow us the time to implement the change. We change to avoid crises. Still, this extreme is a good example.

Greg: What are some less extreme examples?

Mike: New positive events are good too. For instance, an acquisition, a new market, a major new client, a new product and many other such events. The keyword here is “new.” Anything new primes our minds for change. It is a fresh start. It is a sign of growth, all very positive.

Let us now go the other way. Let us look at the old, look at longevity, at traditions. For example, celebrating a firm’s major anniversary is a good time to begin change. These kind of landmarks also prime us to think about the past, present and more importantly the future. The future causes us to think change. The present causes us to do change.

In addition to company anniversaries, it could be the anniversary of a successful product, division or owner. Even a major birthday of the owner, president or CEO could be used. Why do people make New Year’s resolutions? Why do we set resolutions on our major birthdays? Again, we just naturally think about the future and change at these times.

Greg: Is it that simple though, Mike? Is it just a matter of picking out some anniversary to begin the rollout of a change?

Mike: In many ways, yes. The implication of your question is right though. This can go awry. Saying, “Well, it’s our tenth anniversary, so it is a good time to talk about where to go from here,” does not do it.

Remember, these new moments and anniversaries only prime our minds. Using a farming analogy, they make the soil for change fertile. We still need to plant the seeds and nurture them. To do this, we need to keep two other things in mind: story and natural.

We need to tell a story about the change we want. The story creates context. People need this to make sense of it. The new event or anniversary becomes a sign, a landmark. It is proof we are on the right path.

We must show the change as natural, not radical. Radical change creates fear and resistance. Relating change to something old is a great way to do this. Email is just electronic mail. Tanks are just armored cavalry. A new product is often just a new and improved version of an old product.

Combining these two things, we have a story that shows natural progression from one point to the next. We see this as the next chapter, a sequel. A new movie is often pitched as a sequel or a remake. We get the new with the best of the old. It is change with a friendly, known face.

Again, our new events and anniversaries are signs. They are the titles, headlines and marquees. They show that the next chapter in our story is here. They prime people for something new.

Here is an example of tying these themes together. Let us start with the fact that growth brings change. The story is that growth is change. That means change is natural to those who are growing.

Our major new client or market proves we are growing. That fifteen-year anniversary proves our staying power to grow. These do not come to those who fail to change in a constantly changing world. Change is a natural part of our story. Staying the same is a radical change of our story.

There is a best time for change, Greg. We can seize it by tapping the landmarks in our story or wait. If we wait, the very best time for change will come. It will be a crisis. Crises often bring change we do not like though. So, yes, Greg, to answer your question, it is as simple as all that.

Contact Mike Lehr today at 330-777-0094 to learn more or to schedule him as a speaker at your next event.

Mike Lehr is an accomplished professional speaker for Keynotes, Training and Discussion Facilitator.

Greg Cook

Greg Cook is a 10 yr+ online visibility strategist, editor of the local small business news site Akron Small Business Leaders and business writer for Small Business Trendsetters.