When Is The Best Time To Change?
When is the best time to change? It's when preparation and the opportunity to create interest and urgency come together around some incident or condition that can focus attention and effort. That's when real lasting change occurs. Use that answer to focus your own personal and organizational change efforts for maximum impact and value.
The best time to change is when you don't have to - when you're not forced to - when events and circumstances provide the opportunity and momentum for change. It's also the most effective time to change. It's when astute leadership has prepared for change and acts when the opportunity presents itself - as it almost always will.
I learned that lesson from one of the best leaders I ever worked with. He knew how hard change without a pressing need can be. In the organization he lived in anything that wasn't pressing and proximate got zero attention. He dealt with that behavior by identifying potential problems and then working - quietly - to develop solutions. He kept a low profile on his preparation and solutions until the inevitable crisis or attention-getting problem occurred. When it did he was ready to work to solve it. His rationale for quietly preparing was that if he presented a problem and a solution prematurely, they would be dismissed as unimportant, and trying to reintroduce them later was made much more difficult by the earlier dismissal.
His point? In order to be heard, you've gotta know when the situation has the attention of the organization.
The alternative to his approach are short term fixes, rather than long term solutions. It's the buying of something that has the promise of solving something, it's the 1000 calorie diet that gives a weight loss quickly, but with no hope of long term benefit. It's the program introduced to solve a "morale" problem that ends up causing a morale problem. And that behavior - short term fixes - results in frustration and cynicism.
But those short term fixes can lead to long term solutions, if change is handled on a constructive basis.
An example of how long term change grew out of a crisis, a near term fix and a long term solution.
A manufacturing company made commercial airplane components. Part of their business was building replacement parts for older airplanes. Over a Christmas shutdown period, a critical component - a one of a kind replacement - disappeared from the stand where it was awaiting final inspection. A replacement had to be made at great cost - other versions of this part didn't fit this particular aircraft - though the thieves probably didn't know that. But the fact that it was a one - of - a - kind was crucial to identifying and highlighting the theft.
Shortly after that event the head of Security got an anonymous tip that high value plating metals were being stolen. The Security Chief had suspected that theft was a problem for some time, but he had no way to put his finger on it and cause real action to be taken. The combination of the missing component and the tip on the theft of plating metals were the triggers that got the President's attention.
The Security Chief recommended an undercover operation that he had planned for some time. He laid out how it should be done, using a private investigative agency the Chief had vetted and maintained contact with for just such a situation. The operation was implemented within a week - with only the President, the Security Chief and the VP of Administration aware of it. The company was in a hiring mode - and undercover operatives were placed on open jobs. Within 60 days they were able to identify suspects. Within 90 days of the start of the undercover operation, action was taken and suspects were interrogated and, in most cases, terminated for theft.
Most of the organization was relieved that the thieves had been identified - many people knew theft and other bad things were happening, but they didn't feel they could come forward.
The near term fixes that followed were replacing the contract guard force and putting increased security procedures in place. Most people felt the issue was finished. And that could have been the end of the story.
But the FBI and local authorities had been informed by the Security Chief about the undercover operation as soon as action was taken against the suspects. He had established relationships with the FBI and local law enforcement on a just -in - case basis and had an effective working relationship with them. They started their own investigation within that part of the industrial community that could have profited from the kinds of things stolen. They started recovering all kinds of components from repair shops that the company didn't know had been stolen! The company had to admit that their material control processes were outdated and ineffective. The FBI and local police ended up recovering over $500,000 worth of parts. but they lost interest when it became apparent that the company couldn't take legal action - the admission that they didn't know the parts were missing made prosecution almost impossible.
And then the long term benefit kicked in. The realization that Material Control needed to be improved led to positive change. It started with a study to determine what steps could be taken to integrate and improve work flow, inventory control, production control , parts tracking and assembly. It ended with the phased implementation of an integrated Materials Requirement Plan system that completely changed the dynamics in the manufacturing, procurement and processing of the parts. The result was lower inventory, shorter lead times on purchased parts, shorter work - in - process times for components, and improved performance to commitments.
Big positive change started with a Security Chief prepared to work a theft problem - but needing the credibility of an in - your - face problem to get the ball rolling. And once the ball was rolling, having the President use the information gained to create positive lasting change in the organization. That required communication from the top. It required the cooperation and dedication of everyone. But everyone could see the benefits and the worthiness of the changes - so everyone pitched in. They were open to change. It was a real success story.
Back to the original question. When is the best time to change? It's when preparation and the opportunity to create interest and urgency come together around some incident or condition that can focus attention and effort. That's when real lasting change occurs.
Use that answer to focus your own personal and organizational change efforts for maximum impact and value.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Cox helps clients align their resources and design and implement change through the application of goals focused on the important few elements that have maximum impact in achieving success - as defined by the client. He can be reached at http://www.coxconsultgroup.com and E Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org