I met Lior Arussy at the CEO to CEO Event in New York City and I was struck by his ability to help companies embrace and navigate successful change initiatives. He shared some of his insights with me and that prompted me to read his book “Next is Now, 5 Steps for Embracing Change.” The book is a business book, but the strategies work for personal changes as well as business related transformation. As one of the key themes that I talk about in Corporate Governance and business is ensuring that your company is future proofed to survive today’s quickly changing business environment, this book seemed like a natural fit for my personal library.
No longer is adaptability the key to business success, you can’t just iterate and improve on the last thing you did. You have to be able to actually pivot, change and take the next step. The book posits that this is an ability that can be learned and built into your muscle memory so you become better and better at it; Lior calls it change-resiliency. These skills won’t help you if you are the only one buying in, so you have to be able to bring your entire organization with you in learning and embracing change-resiliency.
Thankfully, he provides a roadmap, with warnings about the usual roadblocks and how to address them. But the crux of the idea is that there are 10 principles for creating a change-resilient culture:
- Focus on the core cause, your “why” – ensure your employees, from the front line understand the reason for the change. “It comes from the top” isn’t going to work in the long run. They must have ownership as well.
- Demonstrate your personal commitment to change – what will you personally do different to prove you are committed to making the change?
- Start Every Interaction by asking “What Next?” – continually looking for a better way in everything you do will build that curiosity and openness to change that will ensure you find better ways to do old things.
- Highlight what doesn’t change – there is comfort in constants. So allow that some things will remain the same and recognize them.
- Set expectations – understand the plan will change, that you aren’t successful everytime, and that you don’t have all the answers in advance.
- Seek improvement – not validation – Surveys that must come back with perfect 10s don’t provide valuable information. Ask different constituents how you can change, what their unmet needs are, what you can do better, specifically.
- Emphasize ownership of the outcome – allow people to choose how they get tasks accomplished, but hold them to deadlines and outcomes. If they own the process you’ll get the best result.
- Recognize the difference between employees’ styles – allow for employees to choose different methods of execution, and encourage them to share ideas.
- Encourage experimentation – even if something is working, there is likely a better way to do it. Formalize this pursuit through regular meetings on innovation.
- Celebrate innovation – recognize those who embrace transformation, even if it isn’t always successful.
Change resiliency isn’t just part of a one time corporate transformation, it must be built in to the corporate culture on a day to day basis. To do that you have to provide your employees with three things: aspirational goals that will motivate and challenge them, the tools to accomplish those goals, and the safety net to catch them if they fail. It always comes back to the “why.” If you ensure that your constituents, your stakeholders understand the reason for the change, you will have a much better chance of success. When you describe the reason, weave in the human story, people are motivated by people not charts and graphs.
I recommend you read the book and don’t wait, change is what is happening now and “Next is Now.”
As a public or private company director the biggest risk your company faces is not being contemporary. The velocity of change tells us all that we need to augment our companies’ cultures with the ability to embrace change!