The Point: We’ve all been there before… Things are going well and perhaps the last thing we should entertain is a moment of change. After all, what could we possibly gain (and only risk loss) by changing? However the go/no go decision regarding change is rarely within a leader’s control, and as such change becomes a necessary contingency planning skill. So how can you, as a leader, offset the comfortable confines of complacency effectively? In this post we’ll take a look at complacency from a change perspective and provide four (4) tips to offset its lethargic state… Enjoy!
The J Curve of Change Management
It’s been nearly a dozen years (Yikes!) since I sat with Dr. Jerry Jellison of the University of Southern California (USC) about dealing effectively as a leader with change. His book, “Managing the Dynamics of Change” provided the backdrop for our conversation during a leadership development program I was participating in. The “J” Curve of Change represents five (5) stages of change that can be mapped out from a performance/productivity stance over a series of time (See image). The J Curve of Change Management consists of a series of troughs and peaks, but oddly enough begins with a relatively morose and non-descript path of performance. While this “complacency” phase can best be described as one where action is taking place, there is relatively no performance/productivity change (for better or for worse).
So Why Exactly Change?
With tears in her eyes a participant in a cross-functional (multi-departmental) change team cried out “Why are you making us do this?” It wasn’t me, her leadership team, or my consulting firm (at the time) that was making this organization change possible to create the water works show. What was causing the change-moment (as I liked to call it) occur was the evolving market conditions.
If you can identify the source of the change moment (i.e., the real answer to “Why are you making us do this?”) you have the opportunity to not only overcome the many change obstacles that are presented to you, but also shorten the associated change timeline (and therefore create positive productivity/performance). So what are the possible causes of change? Here is an abbreviated list of what I see most commonly causing change in business today for leaders:
- Education (Personnel/Consumer)
- Personnel Skills
- Product/Service Pricing
- Product/Service Offering(s)
- The Customer (Darn them!)
- Leadership ADD/Leadership ADHD
- Leadership Ego/Pride
- The News/Press
4 Tips to Overcome The Leadership Challenge Complacency
While the list of potential causes of change has been abbreviated above, you hopefully get the impression that there can be an overwhelming variety/scope/scale of change inducing moments. So should you as a leader attempt to get ahead of the change curve and always be refining (or attempting to move in a positive change direction?) I’ve compiled the following 4 tips to overcome the leadership challenge of complacency to help you, as a leader, be successful in your complacency change initiatives:
Tip #1 – Manage by Measuring
It’s important to know not only where you are going (in alignment with corporate mission/vision/values of course), but perhaps even more important to know where you are at (and don’t forget where you came from, but that’s a post for another time!) Capturing consistent metrics will allow you to identify this current state, and establish a game plan for how you will get to where you want to go.
Tip #2 – Contingency Plan
If you are in a complacent state, some would argue that this in and of itself is a problem (after all, you are not getting better or worse). Therefore it’s important to identify current/future problems that could/should/might occur as well as their appropriate solutions.
Tip #3 – Recruit Support (Before You Need It!)
Let’s face it… Change is difficult for a variety of reasons. In the thick of change initiatives it’s important to have support from key stakeholders in the organization (Those that are organization chart superior, equal, and subordinate in location). These support personnel could also alert you to change before your metrics identify them.
Tip #4 – Focus
Keeping your “eyes on the prize” is a great analogy for overcoming complacency in the workplace. Where you want to head will allow you to insure that you keep pointed in that direction, as well as provide you with insight into how to get there.
In this post we’ve taken a look at complacency from a change perspective and provide four (4) tips to offset its lethargic state. If the overriding goal of change management is to provide a “better” alternative in regards to where you started from, overcoming complacency is a crucial first step.