When was the last time you saw a McDonald’s restaurant being torn down? Yes, torn down. It’s not a site you see often. Usually you see them going up…as a matter of fact, several new McDonald’s restaurants open each week!
I recently noticed a McDonald’s by my house that had a sign in front which said “Closing Tomorrow.” “How unusual,” I thought, “they never close.” The next day I drove by and realized that they were serious, really serious. The main window had been taken out and the sign with the big arches, you know the ones, was laying on the concrete. I assumed they were doing some minor renovations.
On my drive by the next day, I drove by and thought that I passed the restaurant because I did not see it. I looked out my rear view mirror and realized it was gone. Yes, totally gone. Not just the arches but the playground, the parking lot, drive through and building. What had stood proudly as the sign of “quick, pick me up food,” “happy meals,” and a place people could stop for a “french fry fix” no longer stood. As I drove on, I wondered “why”?
The following day when I was running an errand, I could not help myself. I had to get to the bottom of this. I drove out of my way just so I could pass the fallen building. To my surprise, everything was gone! The parking lot concrete had been broken up and hauled away. The rubble from the building had vanished and a nice, smooth layer of dirt was already on the ground. I didn’t know what to make of it.
As I got closer, I realized that there was a hole in the ground with lots of pipes coming out. Suddenly I noticed a sign which read “New McDonald’s Coming Soon!” I was surprised and relieved. But, why would they go to the expense of tearing an existing building down that served so many for so long? One reason – CHANGE!
What was built some twenty years ago no longer served the purpose today. The neighborhood grew and the facility could no longer handle the demands of its many customers. Also, changes in society demanded changes in the dining areas, food prep stations and with internal communication systems. McDonald’s, even with its billions and billions served knew when it was time to make a change.
Know When To Initiate Change
Change is actually not such a bad thing. Change helps us keep current with the times. It motivates us to improve on previous processes. Change even encourages us to challenge ourselves.
Ask yourself several questions to help evaluate your organizational situation:
1. Does your organizational structure (by-laws, policies, procedures, mission statement, etc.) seem outdated and not reflective of current needs?
2. Are people confused more than before about how to accomplish tasks in your organization?
3. Do team members have a hard time understanding their responsibilities and how they should effectively communicate with each?
4. Do others perceive your group as one that accomplishes very little but has lots of potential?
5. Is there internal conflict about the roles and responsibilities of team members?
If you answered “yes” to any of these then it may be time to scrap what you have now (ie: tear down the McDonald’s building) and begin again anew. This may be painful…but it also may be necessary. What is the result of not changing? Regardless of your situation, change is not easy.
Facilitating Organizational Change
Not to be alarmed. Change is inevitable. It’s what keeps us current with the times. When you feel it is time to take stock in your organization, whether that be updating your organizational by-laws or mission statement, improving the programs and services you provide, or, creating a dramatic shift in your organization’s purpose, there are a few strategies for making sure the change is welcomed and sticks.
Bring the Team On-board.
As you engage in the change process (perhaps adjusting your organizational structure, or, developing new procedures) encourage open, honest involvement of other group members. Team members may need some poking and prodding. Let them begin to participate at their own pace.
Share the Vision.
If it’s only “your vision,” “your change,” “your idea,” you’ll likely struggle with your team. You may create an “us vs. them” mentality…. whether you mean to or not. Help people see the vision come alive. Share the new ideas but lose ownership yourself. Help them make decisions related to the change. Be open to their new ideas and encourage their creativity. Remember “People Support What THEY Help To Create!”
Take Baby Steps. Change Takes Time
Often, people want things to be different overnight. I recently visited a school where I had previously done some work. I was amazed at how much they had accomplished in a short period of time. They got it done one step, one day at a time. Collaboratively plan, take action and evaluate.
Different is Good.
Suppose we had a baseball team. During the first team practice, everyone argues about whom should be the pitcher…they all want to do it! How effective would the team be?
What if we evaluated the team players/members and fielded our team based on strengths and weaknesses. We discover somebody who is a “big picture” person and they become the catcher because that person needs to stay awake at all times and constantly communicate with the pitcher and team members. Then we find somebody with a long, accurate strong arm…someone who can get rid of the ball quickly. They run over to play third base. Before you know it, everyone is playing a unique position based on his or her talents and skills.
Different perspectives allow our team to be more effective, more creative and more adaptable to change. Involve people in the change process who have fresh perspectives or are open to learning. Different is good!
Communicate Openly, Honestly and Often
Simplicity is important. You’ve probably heard the story of the five-year-old girl who is told that the family will soon move to a new neighborhood. On “moving day” she locks herself in the bathroom in hopes of not having to move from her comfortable, familiar home. Deep down inside, her fear was that the family would move and she would have to leave all of her toys and personal belonging in the old house in order to move to the new one. She was obviously upset and angry because nobody communicated the change effectively and explained that she would not have to “give up” her toys. Your goal is to communicate with team members so that they know what is happening. Communicate effectively and in simple terms.
What To Expect
Most people do not like to try something new. They fear failure and being laughed at. Help team members understand the Stages of Change in order to facilitate change.
Denial. When it is time to change, others will deny the need. They may say, “Why change, everything is fine just like it is.” They don’t see the need for change and cannot justify it in their minds.
Strategy…The worst thing you can do is argue with people when they are in this stage. Instead, confront them with facts when possible.
Resistance. Many people may see the need to do something different (in other words, they don’t deny it) but they just do not want to do it. They are more comfortable existing as they currently are. Change will require too much work or planning on their part. They resist change by making fun of it or making fun of you and others who believe it is time to change the organization.
Strategy…The best thing you can do is be open and honest with them. Change is a process and people usually fear the unknown or the idea of doing something that is new. Express your similar feelings. Let your team members know how you feel as well. Build bridges with them to create a common understanding of the issues which lie ahead.
Exploration. Your team members will begin to realize the change is necessary and look for ways to support it.
Strategy…Encourage their participation. Recognize their commitment and help them explore ways that they can support the new changes that are occurring.
A True Story
Several years ago, I worked with an organization that desperately needed to revitalize. The team was no longer acting as a team. People were in conflict and the organizational structure contributed to that. I had a solution about how to turn things around. However, the worst thing for me to do would have been to “tell” the group what we should do to improve. They would have turned to me and asked, “Who appointed you as the King?”
Instead, I became part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I began to discuss my ideas about how the organization might change to improve with a few people and slowly gained their support individually. Next, I put the solutions in writing and presented them during an organizational meeting. Also, I provided information about other organizations that were successfully using some of the ideas I proposed. I expressed to the team members that I did not have all of the answers but as a team, we could work together and move forward in this new direction together.
From this point forward, the team developed momentum for the changes I initiated and they were no longer seen as “his ideas” but rather, “our ideas.” The key is this…just because you are the President, Chairperson, Coordinator or whatever title you hold, you do not have to be the person with all of the answers. As a matter of fact, change is usually better carried out when the group is actively engaged themselves in discussing the issues, developing solutions and empowered as team members to implement their ideas.
Grow Your Organization
As a leader of an organization, it is your responsibility to help your organization grow, and at times, that is not fun. Leadership is not always easy!
It’s been said “Change is inevitable, only growth is optional.” In other words, change is around us all the time. We are constantly engaged in change, that is constant. Our ability to “grow” through the change, and not just “go” through the change is what is important. By growing, we challenge old assumptions, develop new procedures and commit to new ideas that support our purpose for existing in the first place. Change motivates us, inspires us and helps us improve as leaders!
Submitted by Michael Poll, Leadership Educator