Battling Organizational Elasticity

People and organizations are like rubber bands: you can try to stretch them, but they have a tendency to snap back to the way they were before you started. It sounds cliché to say it, but change is hard. Change is really hard when you have a history of success in your business or a history of failure in a new business or strategy. Every signal you get from the organization and from your view of your collective history tells you just to keep executing on the previously successful strategy, in favor of entertaining a new one. If the organization does not realize or truly believe that it must change in order to survive or thrive, getting anywhere past the steady-state is difficult and fraught with setbacks and retrenchments, in the comfort of the existing business model.

Resistance to change may vary from person to person, and organization to organization—complacency with the status quo, fear of the unknown, belief that failure is due to immutable forces, the hope for a technology panacea—but in nearly every case, the lack of motivation can be linked to a lack of a clear understanding for WHY a change is necessary. If the WHY comes from management consultants or three-day retreats or hockey-stick financial projections to fend off anxious boards of directors, you might as well save your transformation budget for hope-and-pray sales team incentives and president’s award trips to Hawaii.

Instead, the WHY must come from YOU. You are unique. Your team is unique. The collective skills and experience of your organization are unique. Your competition can’t replicate it. And an industry analyst most likely isn’t going to tell you anything different than they will tell the next company they visit. Finding your WHY and turning it into a reality is a journey. And every journey needs a destination, a roadmap, a vision, and a strategy to guide the business as it executes and competes.

If you need a reminder of what change feels like, try this experiment: if you own a watch or wearable of some sort , take it off the wrist that you normally wear it on and put it on your opposite wrist. Just for a week. That watch that you have worn for twenty years on your left wrist will feel a bit strange on your right. You’ll notice it every time you pick up a pen or take a sip of coffee. That’s what change should feel like. It’s uncomfortable, persistent, and yet creates this heightened awareness of your day-to-day actions and consequences.

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