It's hard to go through a workday or LinkedIn feed and not hear terms such as "innovation," "inclusivity," "agile," or "dynamic" and their inherent benefits to a company. In a nutshell, those are all some form of "change"; The organization or company seeing an opportunity to be more competitive, or just all-around "better" and trying to capitalize on it.
This article is not aimed at those that openly oppose change… we'll tackle that topic in a different article. This is aimed at the ones who say they want to embrace it; they may even fly a change flag, see the value in the change, and feel bought into change - they're just not actually doing a damn thing to initiate change besides talk about it. Talking about change gives them their "I'm a good person" fix for the day and then move on. It's often because deep down, behind the good intention and a saving face, they don't want to put in the work to change; they want the circumstance to change so they don't have to. They hang their hat on the long-established three P's of anti-change: policies, procedures, and precedent. These "champions of change" do not often even realize how much they're directly slowing change. These people become the barrier to change. That being said, the scarier thought is every one of us, at some point in our lives, has probably been that barrier.
"...three P's of anti-change: policies, procedures and precedent."
Have you been in a situation where you were the lead on a project or task, and someone came to you with an idea on how to improve a process, but you either didn't see the picture they were painting or didn't care to try? You were a barrier to change. How about a time when you emotionally supported a cause, fully believed in its purpose and its end goal, but instead of taking steps to help make a difference, you assumed someone else would do it and chose to sit on the sideline? You were a barrier to change. We are all guilty of this. None of us are innocent, but we can be more cognizant and deliberate in our actions. Maybe it's time your words follow your actions and not the other way around. This takes reflection and asking yourself, "who am I, what am I about, and what am I going to do about it?".
Here's another example: Allies are a necessary good in this world, but I have seen people, and I have been that person who wants to see change brought about, but have not fully stepped up to the plate. These are people who want to see barriers and walls that have been built up for years and ingrained in the fabric of society knocked down and torn apart; however, wanting to see the change and being the change are two different things. You must ask yourself: What am I doing about it besides giving it lip service and retweeting about it? What am I doing to be the change I want to see? Are you questioning those three P's (policy, procedures, and precedent) and their validity, or are you staying quiet because "this company frowns on that, and I don't want to ruin my career"? If you would like to carry the moniker of an ally, you need to be the change you want to see. It's not easy, and sometimes you need to be reminded by close friends that you're talking a big game but not backing it up!
Change is the intentional evolution of our status quo. It's growth. It's putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. Ultimately, it's 100% dependent upon your wiliness to grab it by the horns and to inspire those around you to do the same. Change needs more than your lip service, and because of that….
I ask two things of you this week:
Do an honest assessment and find the gaps between your words and your actions. What are you saying you're about or that you stand for, and what are you actually doing? Think about the reflection questions above and figure out ways to fill those gaps with action. In other words, be the change you want to see.
The next time you're in a conversation with a teammate, friend, family member, or really anyone who shares an idea with you on how to make their situation or the situations of others better, encourage them to take the next step. Please encourage them to push past the theoretical, embrace the reality of the situation, and take action to be part of the solution.
You're not going to get washboard abs without ab workouts or a degree without attending classes, and you're certainly not going to become a more inclusive and equitable company by clinging tight to your "tradition" or "the way it's always been". No, you don't get to have your change cake and eat it too. Change requires you to embrace the awkward, scrutinize those three p's, then get off your ass and be about it!
Note: All of the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and are not a reflection of the viewpoint of my employer.