One Person Can Make a Difference and Everyone Should Try...Organizational Change

Published: Monday, October 13, 2014   /   Categories: Leadership

John F Kennedy said these words over 50 years ago, and they still carry the same if not more profound impact and inspiration today for countless people including myself. They speak clearly of the ability for change for the better in our own life, the lives of others and the world that we live in. They also remind us that change is constant and necessary in all our lives and that there is a larger picture to the life of each of us and society overall and the potential of what truly can be. Our level of successful sustainability and functionality as individuals, organizations and humanity can be greatly improved upon.

Making a positive difference in our own life or the lives of others, organizations, and the world at large starts with a healthy mind, body and spirit, and a change of daily thoughts, communications and actions of our own self first.

Many organizations are in search of that leader that can be the change agent, and help create the change they seek and gain a competitive edge. The change agent does not necessarily need to be the business owners, executives or managers. They must be heavily involved though, and buy in from the start to the finish. Change is a team effort that starts with one person, builds to a critical mass and expands to all people and areas of the organization. Change is a constant in our world and we cannot rest upon our laurels of yesterday forever. We constantly need to be adaptable as individuals and organizations.

The Agent for Change

To be an agent for change it is commonly known that we must embody that change our own self and live it every day. The right individual with grit and determination, the courage to change and stand alone in doing so is more important to successful change than any other single factor.

Many people as creatures of habit tend to find a comfortable rut and say that it suffices for them and not seek to do anything different.

It is necessary for organizational change to find a disruptor of the comfortable rut that has been made in the past and orchestrate the values, the people and resources into a greater vision of what can be. The agent for change needs to have exceptional people skills, be genuine and have the ability to work with others who have business skills to maintain and work with the financial end of change.

The agent of change does not have to be the head of the organization, but they need to hold a place of respect and trust with all people.

They need to be able to build real and genuine trust with people as well. As said they need to balance the needs of people and financial accountability, and there has to be a transparency to their real motives or they will lose trust and respect to any and every one eventually. Approachable, and humble and yet strong of character they need to create a successful network of people within the organization at all levels that will participate and extend the reach of the desired change. We are not talking ladder climbing individuals here either. All of these individuals are extensions of the vision of change and see the change in the interest of all concerned parties for the betterment of the organization and each person as a result of it. This forms the critical mass of change organizationally.

Purposeful, effective and positive change is a balancing act between what was and what can be while in transit between the two.

What qualities does a change agent require to create sustainable success though? Qualities including effective communication, courage, patience, understanding, forgiveness, the ability to read people and situations, make difficult decisions, and maintain the vision under the critical eye of those who would see them fail.

George Couros in his article on Connected Learning states there are 5 main characteristics of a change agent. These are consistent with leaders of change in any discipline whether personal, business or world change.

1. Clear vision - a “change agent” does not have to be the person in authority, but they do however have to have a clear vision and be able to communicate that clearly with others.

2. Patient yet persistent - Every step forward is a step closer to a goal; change agents just help to make sure that people are moving ahead.

3. Asks tough questions - Keep asking questions to help people think, don’t alleviate that by telling them what to do.

4. Knowledgeable and leads by example - If you want to create “change”, you have to not only be able to articulate what that looks like, but show it to others.

5. Strong relationships built on trust - People will not want to grow if they do not trust the person that is pushing the change

What if People Do Not Want to Change?

Change is difficult to create and sustain within a culture of people who will not, or believe they cannot change successfully. To be able to do so the change agent has to look at themselves and their expectations. Not every person will want to be part of the change and losses of certain people voluntarily or involuntarily is inevitable in any organization. Difficult decisions may need to be made regarding certain people unfortunately.

Many people, managers, owners and others wanting to create change have unrealistic expectations of change and the change they seek becomes the idea of the day, the flavor of the week, or the new approach of the month. The keys to successful and sustained change rest within the original 5 characteristics as previously discussed. The genuineness and clarity of the message of change cannot be overstated.

Real thought has to go into the communicating of the message to people, and real commitment has to occur with real actions that prove real leadership to create real and sustainable change.

Too often a sense of entitlement of managers and change leaders is that they have not and do not walk the talk, or have the patience and commitment for the change. If there is a real commitment from them it must be nothing less than 100% commitment and be demonstrated as such. There is no easy answer to creating engagement, but being dictatorial to the masses is proven to have minimum effectiveness for real and sustainable change. Real buy in from each individual and group need to occur. People have and do exercise their choices to passively or actively follow or not. Many fly under the radar as they say. Choice is always an option for all participants of change and in life in general.

Creating the desired change takes time and certainly it will depend upon;

- the amount of change that is desired and expected organizationally and from the individual.

-the map of change being followed, including the step by step process, and monitoring of change effectiveness

 -through S.W.O.T -Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats.

-the previous existing culture and difference to the desired culture.

-the understanding of the abilities of the people as individuals and group dynamics.

-the resources external and internal used in the change and their levels of consistent competency.

-of course as mentioned how real the leadership is. The level of commitment and self-demonstration is pertinent to the success of creating and sustaining change.

Nobody is going to please everyone in life, but that is a poor excuse to not try to make a positive difference as John F Kennedy declared that we all should try.

Effective change also allows for honest questioning, discussions and communications between all levels of the organization. It helps to break down ineffective barriers between organizational levels, and creates synergy throughout the organization.

Change recognizes diversity and differences in human abilities and characteristics, and works to accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives. Effective and positive change brings about a better balance of finance and people within organizations, and should bring empowerment, engagement and productivity. It speaks of sustainability and long term benefits and involves all people at all levels.

It all starts though with one thought and one individual willing to make a difference and trying... and everyone should.

Is change right for you and your organization?

What does your organization stand to gain and lose through trying to change?

How can you make a difference for the better in your organization?

About the author: Dave Konkin lives and works happily in Calgary, Canada at SAIT Polytechnic as an instructor and subject matter expert and developer of curriculum. He has over 35 years of work experience that is largely focused in the mechanical trades. He is certified in multiple technical trades, and also in conflict resolution. Dave has worked as a manager and front line employee in the HVAC/R industry. Dave and his family support and participate in charitable giving and volunteering, and work towards creating a better and more sustainable world for all people. They also encourage others to develop a sense of living their lives in the service of others and doing purposeful good daily. Dave and his wife Lisa, have a wonderful "yours mine and ours" multicultural family with their 8 children age 5 to 32, and are proud grandparents as well of three grandchildren. Dave can be contacted at davidgkonkin@gmail.com.


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