Leading in Constant Change

It has become cliché to say that we live in an era of constant change. But clichés are clichés for a reason; constant change is indeed our reality.

BCG’s Jim Hemerling Observes that in our personal lives, this ever-present potential for transformation is often empowering, even exhilarating. It “occupies a positive emotional space;” we embrace the potential in the self-transformations we desire for ourselves. What about the business world? Hemerling reports that the idea of organizational transformation tends to inspire very different emotions in this context: anxiety, doubt, exhaustion.

That’s a problem for our businesses and a challenge for our leaders. It’s a problem because business success demands constant adaptation. Hemerling calls it “always on transformation.” I like his name for it. Since founding ODC Construction five years ago, I’ve lived “always on transformation” as the company’s CEO. We’ve grown tenfold, constantly evolving, improving, responding and expanding. In my experience, Hemerling is right: an organization will not thrive if it does not adapt well.

The challenge for business leaders is to effectuate organizational change without arousing anxiety, doubt and exhaustion in the ranks. Such a burden on the workforce is too high a cost to pay for the routine adaptation necessary in today’s world. Worse, it can doom such efforts to failure. How to meet this challenge?

That’s the question Hemerling tackles in his TED Talk, “5 ways to lead in an era of constant change,” with examples such as Lego, Microsoft, Chronos, and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr. There are two overarching themes. First, we need to plan ahead to succeed. Too often we wait until the need for adaptation has become an urgent crisis. That’s not the right framework for transformation. Instead, we should proactively develop and plan opportunities to evolve.

Second and most important, we must prioritize the people of our organization above all else. To lead in constant change without negatively impacting those responsible to execute it, we must put our colleagues first in conceptualizing and implementing organizational adaptation. Hemerling explains that his 5 techniques are extensions of this core concept:

  1. inspire with purpose;
  2. go all in;
  3. enable people to succeed in transformation;
  4. instill a culture of continuous learning; and
  5. commit to inclusive leadership.

I’ve witnessed the promise of these principles firsthand. ODC Construction has thrived because its people have thrived. They’ve created a culture of learning and growth, embraced a spirit of constant improvement, and welcomed challenges—and surmounted them. It’s a beautiful thing.

What do you think? What’s your favorite TedTalk? Join the discussion and let me know. I want to hear from you!

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-Isaac Lidsky


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