My Grandmother Williams, a wonderful woman, was born in rural Iowa over 100 years ago. If you don’t know what rural Iowa was like 100 years ago, it should not be mistaken for a place where actual human beings lived—at least not in large numbers.
Rural Iowa was beautiful. Picture the Garden of Eden with more clothing and lots of corn. Except in winter. Then you have to picture snow, covered with a layer of ice, slathered with more snow, with sleet and hail mixed in.
Evidently during that time in rural Iowa, one of the leading causes of death was undercooked meat. According to my grandmother’s idea, the bubonic plague was child’s play compared to eating meat that wasn’t charred beyond recognition.
To her, a steak had to be thoroughly cooked—and by “thoroughly” I mean “black.” If it was recognizable as an actual food-like substance, it was unsafe to eat. Only if it looked like Martians had zapped it with a death ray, could it be safely consumed.
I mention my grandmother here because she brings up an important topic: change. She lived her whole life believing that all meat must be thoroughly cooked in order to be eaten. I know for certain this is not true because I love my steaks rare and yet so far I am apparently still alive. But she was taught one thing and stuck with that plan her whole life.
As leaders and managers we have to be brave enough to implement change.
Change is always hard because it seems that all of us, as human beings, resist change. We can do things to make change easier, though.
- Don’t be paralyzed by the idea of change or the magnitude of a big change.
Often we don’t know how or where to begin and this causes us to do nothing because we don’t know what we should do. Making a plan will help with this (see below.)
- Identify what needs to be changed.
This is critical because we don’t want to make change just for the sake of change and ruin something that is working well, nor do we want to destroy what could be effective change because we don’t go far enough.
- Figure out how much change can your organization or team handle.
Every organization or team has a threshold of the amount of change that they can deal with at any given time. Take stock of how much other changes happening in the organization and make sure that there is not too much change happening all at the same time.
- Decide before you start how you will measure success in the change.
Before you even begin the change decide how you will know when you have been successful. This includes a way to measure when the changes are accomplished successfully, and the many small goals that must be met along the way in order to accomplish the final goal.
- Make a detailed plan for how to accomplish the change.
Summarize what the change will look like when you are successful. This is the vision. Think about who the change actors will be and how to get them on board with your plan. Communicate your vision with everybody involved; let them know what their part will be and why it is important. Create a plan with all of the necessary steps to make your change happen.
Hopefully, we will be the kind of leaders who can implement change successfully so we won’t be stuck in the Garden of Eden eating a charred steak.