Why change matters!

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization

Every organization has a time when the people leading, the processes they manage and the products they create transform into something new, something different, something better and sometimes worse.

When I think of change, I think of the movie Without Limits.  It’s about Steven Prefontaine, the famous long distance runner who was tragically killed in a vehicle accident. He instilled such a strong belief, philosophy and approach to running that he refused to bow down to anyone’s advice, even his coach, Bill Bowerman, in the way he wanted to run.  Coach Bowerman tried immensely to teach Pre that his methods, although, effective, could be better if he would just change his strategy.   Pre insisted that there was no other way to run other than running flat out until he had nothing left.

Steve Prefontaine: I don’t want to win unless I know I’ve done my best, and the only way I know how to do that is to run out front, flat out until I have nothing left. Winning any other way is chicken-shit.

Though, Pre was extremely effective in his unchangeable belief in running, he also learned that hard work could still lose a race while a mediocre effort could win one.

Bill Bowerman: Pre, you see, was troubled by knowing that a mediocre effort can win a race and a magnificent effort can lose one.

Change is difficult to comprehend when the ways you’ve been doing things are working.  While some see no need for change, there are those that adapt to change and seek change very quickly.  In a work environment, no matter the career, these two types of people can clash and create an uneasy work environment.

So why the need for change?  Even when processes work in today’s culture we have to ask ourselves if they’re going to work in the future?   Are we willing to change to fit the culture we may evolve into?

Change scares us for many reasons.  We don’t like unfamiliar territory,  we like having control of what we know, we like stability and certainty.  That’s okay, it’s only natural that we feel these comforts.

Pre knew that his coach was right.  He knew that running with a better strategy would decrease his time, but winning wasn’t the only thing that mattered the most, it was ‘how’ he won that mattered.  Thus, Pre resisted change.

In the Air Force, every two years a squadron or base proceeds through a change of command. This means that a new Commander will take over as the current Commander moves on to another assignment. In this, many things happen. There is a time when things continue the way they are, but at one point a new set of eyes sees something that can be better. Thus, a new process begins and it’s like the first day of the school year again.  There are those that take it, some that resist it, some that wait and see and some that will try to avoid being a part of it.

There are a number of animals that deal with change too.  Some animals change their core temperature to fit in the environment’s climate. Some change color to blend in with their surroundings as a defense mechanism.  We, as humans, have a hard time adapting to the shifting direction of our environment.  Change is essential to adaptation.  It is also detrimental to not only surviving in our area, but also thriving in our environment. 

A football team is a prime example of how changing, “adapting,” can predict the outcome of any situation.  A football team must be able to change at a moment’s notice if the play they are trying to initiate is noticed by the opposing team.  The team may call an audible or they may play it out.  The defensive team, must do the same.  They will either play along with the play and each player do their part, but what if the offense calls a play change on the line.  The defensive team must adapt to the change and be ready for what is about to come.  They must change their defensive strategy!

This same concept is crucial to every organization.  Every organization must embrace change as a readiness tactic.  A readiness to remain in business.  If not a part of a readiness process, then it must be taken as an opportunity to make progress.

In golf, adaptability is key to winning.  Players must adapt wherever their ball may land.  The inability to adapt could be the difference between winning and losing.  Sometimes the case is just 1 stroke away, sometimes it’s a battle for a tie breaker and it may require tiny adjustments to win.  The winner of the 2015 Masters Champion(Jordan Spieth) won 1.8 million dollars, the 2 runners up(Rose/Mickelson) tied for 2nd and received $880K each and the 3rd place winner received $480K.  The difference in these winnings were very close and I’m sure there were many barely missed putts for birdie that could have put anyone in the lead at any time.  After each round, the players are usually questioned with how they performed.  Most will say they made adjustments in their swing or even changed their attitude.  Adapting to the situation definitely makes an impact.  A million dollar putt could be quite literal!

In all reality, change matters in all aspects of our culture, whether it’s sports, business, military, time management or even eating habits.  We must accept change as opportunities to make progress or in some cases not only survive, but thrive.  Businesses’ goals are not just to survive, but every business wants to thrive.  Adapting to compete with their competition, or adjusting to the supply and demand  need can really make or break a business.

Take change as opportunity.  Adapt as it requires.   Although, we’re not putting for a chance at a million dollars, we are all goal oriented for success .  Change doesn’t mean taking jumps in processes, but even adjusting with baby steps makes a difference.  Change matters! 

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