Could you count the number of times you’ve heard the statement: “That’s just the way it is”? These days I find myself challenging my peers and clients on their reasoning for relying on old processes or ineffective methods. Their response is often some format of the statement above. Our initial human response is frequently one of acceptance and submission—the old “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” viewpoint. It may feel safer to conform than to try to redefine the status quo, or shake things up.
However, it’s the very fear of change and avoidance of risk that prevents growth and improvement. We should be encouraging each other to ponder and explore what happens when we go outside our comfort zone, and challenge the way things have always been done.
There are certainly times I can remember when I would have preferred to keep doing things the way they have always been done. What’s worse, I chose to stay within the lines of the known, perhaps out of pure laziness or a desire to be polite. Eventually my “go with the flow” approach limited me from obtaining the things I wanted in life, and this meant a change was needed. But where to start? I decided to veer from my more predictable behaviors in order to seek out change. By having the tough conversations and embracing the challenge that came with change, I am able to shape my own outcomes and shift direction.
The path of least resistance is often the most well-worn and traveled, thereby comfortable. However, pioneering and challenging the traditional path can uncover improvements and opportunities. To bring about lasting change, you have to go beyond complaining and wishing for a revolution—hope is not a plan!
Try following the below steps to transform your “as is” to your “could be”:
- Identify the issues with your current situation
- Often, a sense of unease or dislike of a current system or method arises after noticing errors, gaps, or other problems exhibited in the current environment. Make a list of these negatives and make it personal. How are you directly impacted? How are you contributing? Identify common themes across the board and target three to five top pain points to address and start with your own sphere of influence
- If you’re really up for a challenge, go further to identify the positives in order to create a holistic view of what your improved process may look like and what unique benefits would surface.
- Ask the right questions of the right people
- Are your peers struggling in the same areas as you? Start by asking them unbiased, challenging questions. This will help affirm your messaging around the need for change. Where do they struggle? What frustrates them? If they could change anything, what would it be? Use their responses to level set your own.
- Is your leadership ready for or desiring change? Determine if there are relevant reasons for the enduring current methods or processes. Are there financial, political, time, or resource issues preventing continuous improvement? Identify possible roadblocks prior to making waves, as this will help you approach the challenge with a solution mindset.
- Come to the table with a solution or recommendation
- You’ve identified flaws, received buy-in, and aligned with leadership’s direction on the issue. Now what would YOU do about it? Approaching any circumstance with recommendations to defined problems provides a direction for improvement. This also helps curate a conversation. Complaining is a magnet for stagnancy and complacency. Start by presenting a potential solution to spur conversation and expand the discussion to potential next actions or movements.
- Be persistent AND patient
- You will face adversity and conflicting interests when you embark on a journey of change. You will also hear the utterance of “It’s just the way it is” or perhaps the rigid “No.” Stay vigilant, continue to address and respond to the facts, focus on the positives of the change, and communicate to those that will listen. Let them support your message. Find opportunities to demonstrate examples of where changes can have positive impact and outcome.
- Time is key to successfully allow for any great change. Gain buy in from leadership, identify the right moves forward, and set thoughts and ideas with a bias toward action. You won’t immediately encounter your ideal results. Stay in the long game, remain flexible, be positive and tenacious with your goals for the change.
In life and work, take initiative and risks! Making a lasting impact takes a lot of work, but will lead to long-term improvements and desired outcomes. Find people to support your vision, join your team and look at the “no” as an opportunity. With the right mix of passion and effort you can transform your current list of frustrations to something referred to later as “the way it WAS.”