Thursday, June 16, 2011

Change the "F" Word

Change.  It happens all the time.  The weather changes. The wind changes.  The economy changes.  People change.  Lives change.  We change, as we age. We change as we learn.  Change is not usually fun.

We are so fascinated by change that change management gurus have documented the change cycle, beginning with  mourning and a sense of loss, followed by anger and rejection of the change, then denial, and finally acceptance.

Change can be a good thing, and usually is, at the end of the change process.  Change is a necessary part of the time and experience continuum. Like an ocean that never stands still, so it is for all beings, organic or otherwise. Even rocks change. When change is led with purpose, it can be a very positive experience.  But when change is denied, the experience is painful.

I would suggest that most change should not be a surprise. There are signs in business and in life.

Here is a scenario that we have all seen.  A company is established that includes a way of working, the products and services, and the attitude with which it is delivered.  Competitive unique strengths that the organization or individual possesses form the foundation for success. Four elements - quality products and services, delivery system, people and resources - ensure the company delivers on its promise. Success is measured by the level of usefulness to others.  As the company's brand becomes more successful, the more secure it becomes.

When one or all of the four elements suffer, the brand begins to erode and the cracks begin to deepen. Customers might complain more about the little things. Employees are less willing to take the boss at his or her word. Processes become weakened. Eventually, the bottom line begins to erode, and then it becomes obvious that something has happened, and that something needs to happen.

In the arena of change, length of time in business or size are irrelevant.  Giants fall.  Start ups fizzle.  Companies downsize, rightsize, merge, converge or disappear.

"What happened," everyone asks.  Why didn't we see this coming?  The quick answer is, "you weren't looking."

One can point to many reasons for this, but short-sightedness, either intentional or accidental, is short-sightedness and the outcome is the same. Eventually there is a head-on collision with reality. The question is why.  What is behind this masochistic perspective. Is it the "f" word?

Designer Milton Glasser, in his video: "The fear of failure" offers an explanation.  He says that if you have something that no one else has, and you become successful, the consequence of specialization and success is that it hurts you  . . . because it doesn't aide in your development.

Dove of Peace - Pablo Picasso
He says that fear of failure may hold us back, or that failure can lead to a damaged ego.  Glasser points to the artist Pablo Picasso who abandoned something once he became good at it.  He refused to stagnate.

Glasser says that one must embrace failure and admit what is, and find out what a person is capable of doing, and not capable of doing.  Unless one subjects himself to the possibility of failure, one never tests the hypothesis of brand greatness.

Understanding failure is to understand another "f" word  - fear.  Organizations or individuals who are afraid of failure cannot learn from the situation and run the risk of being stuck in that moment of failure forever.  Lost in that moment when someone - your customer, your employee, your employer - said, "you are not meeting my needs," "You are not good enough", "You are too expensive", or the ultimate "f" word - "You are fired."

I like to think that there is one "f" word that trumps all of the other "f" words - and that is faith in the human spirit to persevere, be passionate and find a way through.  Everything with a heart beat or a DNA structure, has a natural disposition to survive.

When things change, how do we persevere?  We hold on to our passion and remember every day to do that which we are passionate about.  I do not believe that one can become complacent or afraid if one is passionate.  We learn. We pay attention to the signs and signals around us. We change on purpose, and control that which is within our control and manage that which is not.

If all fails and you feel the need to use the "f" word, choose faith over failure and fear.

Sources and other articles of interest:

Pablo Picaso

Milton Glasser )


Windnsnow said...

I wasn't aware of that fact about Picasso. It makes me rethink personal progress and achievement - and points to the lingering imposter syndrome that is sometimes felt.

Lynear Thinking said...

Yes, there is a lot to learn about life's work of a person. Picasso pushed boundaries continuously testing and pushing buttons. He was kind of a rule breaker, and passionate about provoking thought. I was very interested to learn about him also. And I am encouraged that it's ok to step outside of the comfort zone because that's natural. There are those who would rather we wouldn't. "Everyone has a stake in me never changing / Everyone has a stake in me staying the same." When we challenge and change, it causes a change reaction and discomfort. And that's how we grow.