Due to the dynamic nature of business, the only constant is change. The moment you have everything running perfectly, the situation shifts and your ability to adapt determines if you survive. In my years managing change in business, I’ve collected a few key quotes from people who successfully navigated this challenge.
“Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson
The message here is that even the best plans must anticipate contingencies (like getting punched in the mouth). The ability to anticipate, adapt, react, and bounce back from the punch is perhaps the most important aspect of change management. Start with a plan that factors in change, otherwise you’ll be knocked out before you even get into the ring.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Change starts with a message—and that message must be understood. Assuming a message is understood can doom any plan for change. The initial challenge is to the communicator, who must understand the recipients’ situations, challenges, and even moods in order to speak a language they will understand. Simply telling people what to do, without factoring in whether they understand your intent, is a recipe for disaster. A good communicator is a good listener.
“Do … or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
The worst response to a challenge is often half-hearted change. You tinker with some low-hanging fruit—while leaving the major levers untouched. Once you develop an ideal plan, commit. Own it, perfect it through process, and make it the new norm. There will be moments when the work is harder than anticipated. But if you believe in yourself, your people, and your plan, you must commit. Otherwise, take a chance on maintaining the status quo and don’t make a change. But be decisive.
“Seek negative feedback, particularly from friends.” – Elon Musk
To make sure your change has taken root, you must revisit it and take a cold, hard look at your results. Praise is great for morale, but critical feedback is crucial to success. My background in magazine publishing taught me to reevaluate, fine-tune, and perfect the process with every single issue. Also, it’s important not to take criticism personally. Friends want to see you succeed.
People don’t resist change. They resist being changed! – Peter Senge
Congratulations! You’ve successfully recognized a challenge, made a strong plan, effected change and fine-tuned the results in response to contingencies. Now do it again. And again. The temptation is to slip back into the old ways. It’s human nature to find comfort in the familiar. Established roadways sometimes feel more familiar than the powerful new freeway you’ve just invested in. Trust in your commitment to change. Know that this is the path forward.
These are some of the ideas I rely on in order to make change happen. You can control change; it doesn’t have to control you. Hopefully these words will help you navigate your journey as well.