Change – Put it in Play

Mark J. Komen, President

Kodyne, Inc.

Plymouth, MN.

A great deal of my work is about change – recognizing the need, deciding on the desired outcome, figuring out the starting point, coming up with a plan, identifying the barriers, marshalling the resources, gaining consensus, evaluating progress, tweaking the plan … there are lots of change models out there but these steps are fairly common.  Not that any of this is easy – especially when it comes to change in organizations.

But whatever needs to happen has to start with the individual.  I regularly hear the philosophy that “people can’t change.”  And a whole litany of explanations and justifications about why that is – “We’re hard-wired to behave in certain ways.” “We’ve always done it that way.” “Leopards don’t change their spots.” “Change never sticks around here and we go back to doing what we know …” But to me, those are just excuses.  I believe that to get the things we really want in life, and given reasons that we truly believe in, we can make the choices necessary to make to lasting change.  My beliefs are rooted in rational-emotive psychology and the work of Albert Ellis.  I believe that if we want something badly enough we’ll challenge our beliefs, thinking and ultimately our behavior for the changes to stick.

If your doctor tells you to give up smoking, lose weight and exercise or you’re likely to die before your time, you can choose to continue on your current path or make changes.  Yes this journey can be difficult but it starts with choosing a new outcome for yourself (wellness, longevity, improved quality of life) and working toward it.  Just ask anyone who’s taken a medical warning like this to heart and made those changes.

I see three key components to this process:

  • Motivation
  • Commitment
  • Execution

Motivation is about identifying the driving need to change.  It’s based in desire – something we want that we don’t have.  Or maybe it’s wanting more or less of what we do have.  I’d like to phrase my comments in the organizational context.  We may be motivated to change our organizational culture to become more innovative or achievement-oriented after we lose our biggest customer due to continued late deliveries or competing products with more features.  We may be motivated to change the way we service our customers after the results of a survey show that a majority of our customers would not do business with us if they had the choice to go elsewhere.  We may be motivated to change the way we hire, train, and promote our managers, leaders or top performers after we lose them to other companies.  But wanting to change, being motivated to change isn’t enough.  We need commitment.

Commitment is making the promise to follow through.  Making that promise to ourselves is the place to start.  I want or need to be a more effective (manager, employee, spouse, partner, friend…..).  If I make the changes about myself so that I do the things I need to do to become more effective, I will gain (higher levels of performance from my staff, respect, promotions, personal satisfaction, improved relationships…).  If I don’t do these things, I stand to lose (some or all of the above).  However, it’s not enough to commit to ourselves.  Going public by committing to others or in front of others says, “I’m serious when I say these things, you can hold me accountable to live up to them and I want your help.”  You are enlisting their support for your changes and can, in essence, influence them to join you on your journey.  I’ve worked with a number of senior management teams over the years and it’s very powerful when everyone honestly shares their motivations and makes the commitment to support each other to implement change in themselves and the organization as a whole.  But being motivated and committed to change isn’t enough yet.  We need execution.

How many times have you promised that you would do something and not followed through?  What happened? How did this affect others around you?  How did you feel about yourself?

Execution is what produces the results.  And execution is the hard part because the results are visible.  Visibility permits you and others to measure progress in going from the current state you want to change to the future state you want for yourself or your organization. Visibility spotlights your successes as well as your failed or unrealized promises.  The results are visible to the doubters who say, “I told you it would never work.”  The results are visible to the hopefuls who are waiting to see how things turn out.  And they are visible to the doers who are in the flow of getting things done.  In the final analysis, quite simply, nothing succeeds like success to get the hopefuls and the doubters on board and to keep the doers in the game.

When your management team goes public with your intent to produce change in your organization you are taking a very large risk.  You may be asking your staff to give up old ways of doing things in order to get new things done.  Your team may have a huge barrier to clear: a track record of not following through so that no one really believes anything will truly be different.  But by living up to the promises and commitments you make, your team can earn the respect and produce the buy-in from your staff to support the change initiative and help you to reach your objectives.

Change starts with a thought about how things could be different.  Motivation provides the reason, Commitment provides the accountability.  Execution provides the results.


Copyright 2006.  Kodyne, Inc.  All rights reserved worldwide.