When I think back to the first change I helped lead, I remember how all of us on the leadership team were focused on speed. We needed to change things fast…we were behind the curve.
So we quickly announced the change. We created new communications platforms to carry the message. Let’s go, we said.
And no one came.
After months of trying to convince our people this new way was the right way to do things, we found ourselves further behind, not further ahead.
We tried to go fast. We went backwards.
In my two decades studying changes at scores of companies, and during my 20+ years of leading of all kinds of changes myself, I’ve found this “go fast” mindset to be a significant factor in why two-thirds of change efforts fail.
Sure, customer preferences are changing fast. Our competitors are going to eat our lunch. And we’re not sleeping at night because of it.
All of this is no doubt true, but what’s also true is that if we don’t take the time to help our people and make the change THEIR idea (sincerely), if we don’t pull our people to the change by listening and finding out what’s REALLY going on, if we don’t get our own hands dirty and work with our people—they are, after all, closer to the action, so their ideas are less naïve than ours—if we don’t model the change and instead simply mandate the change from the top, we’ll find ourselves further behind in our efforts to keep up and get ahead.
We can plop a new company on top of our people (see AOL and Time Warner), we can tell people they’re coming back to the office (see a lot of companies), but if we don’t take a deep breath and recognize that it’s about alignment first and the change second…if we don’t have a go-slow-to-go-fast mentality, we will go fast and end up going slow.
So, let’s do this the easy way, by doing the hard work up front.
Let me know what you think. I look forward to being in touch.