The Battle For Change

John Cutler
Nov 2, 2017 · 3 min read

Let’s assume you are a lean change agent. You understand that there are rarely silver bullet solutions. You believe in running small experiments, sensing the impact, and amplifying the good / dampening the bad. You are passionate about continuous improvement, and empowering the front-lines to solve the most pressing business problems.

But here’s something you need to keep in mind. You’re likely to encounter resistance, and it is easy to stereotype this as “resistance to change”. Sometimes the resistance IS a case of risk aversion. But if you observe carefully, you’ll observe that what seems like change intolerance, is actually a battle (and perhaps a stalemate) of change agendas.

People want change, but they (leaders especially) happen to believe in different types of change.

And with that, I give you a good cross-section of the change agendas that might be floating around your average medium to large sized company. The takeaway: be prepared. Your approach is one of many approaches. You’ll need to acknowledge that, and work through it.

You might hear…

  • We have the right people, but the wrong structure.
  • We have the right structure, but we need right people.
  • We have the right structure, but people need to adhere to it and respect each other’s roles.
  • We need to hold people more accountable.
  • People need to hold themselves more accountable.
  • We have the right strategy. We just need to execute.
  • We need to double-down on the strategy.
  • We can’t have all of our eggs in one basket. We need to diversify.
  • We need to get back to the “core” business.
  • Our reward system recognizes an old model of working. We can’t change if that does not change.
  • We have the right structure and people, but they are not empowered.
  • We need to more effectively communicate with each other.
  • We need to get better aligned. We are working at cross-purposes.
  • We just need to adhere to the process.
  • We need to change our processes. They fit an old way of working.
  • We need less bureaucracy.
  • We need to start acting a bit more like a startup.
  • We need to start communicating and thinking outside of our silos.
  • We just need a fresh perspective.
  • We make everything too complicated. We need to simplify things.
  • We have a “rubber stamp” approach to everything. We need to be more flexible.
  • We need the right data, shared more frequently, and more broadly.
  • We need to understand how shifting priorities impact the whole organization.
  • We need to make it safe to fail.
  • We need to be less complacent, and inject a sense of urgency.
  • We are too reliant on consultants.
  • We don’t need to do everything in-house. It is OK to go outside the company for certain skill sets/expertise.
  • We need a new ERP system. Our technology is so dated.
  • We need to align the business around our customers, across the various channels/touch-points.
  • We need to align the business around our products/touch-points.
  • We need to align the business around functions.

John Cutler

Written by

Multiple hat-wearer. Prod dev nut. I love wrangling complex problems and answering the why with qual/quant data. @johncutlefish on Twitter.

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