Get Your Hands Dirty and Change Something.

There are countless books, articles, academic papers, blog posts, and the like around things like “change management”. (One book I particularly love is Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Thought provoking, accessible, and insightful.) But here’s an important thing to note about change:

It’s not simply going to happen because you wish it would.

In business culture, we frequently commiserate with colleagues and lament the things we wish were different. We question decisions or processes. Complain that the management or executive teams aren’t listening, or aren’t accessible. We frustrate ourselves around the environment we don’t like, the challenges we face, the personality clashes we experience, the lack of communication or information.

The trick, however, is that we also often throw those frustrations out over lunch or drinks with colleagues….and then simply go back to putting our heads down and doing business as usual without changing our own behavior one bit.

Before change can be managed, it has to be sparked. By someone. By actions. By getting your own hands dirty.

Yet we wait. For change to happen to us. For someone else to take the initiative to sit down and think not just about the problem, but to design a solution rather than simply a compromise. For someone else to initiate and prepare for the conversation with the big boss, or pull the department heads together, or to take the team to lunch and put some tangible ideas to paper. For someone else to take ownership of the issue and simply shower us with the miraculous results for the sake of making our lives easier.

But why can’t it be you? Or me?

In our personal lives we talk a great deal about accountability for changing behaviors or habits. Wanting it badly enough to simply take steps toward making something happen.

But organizationally, we’re daunted by things like hierarchy and process. We excuse ourselves as being too busy individually to take the time to collectively contribute to something different (collaboration does indeed take time). We cite the limitations of our job description instead of embracing the potential and the audacity of fluid boundaries, of doing what’s needed instead of just what’s prescribed. We presume the executives know the issues at hand, despite ESP not really being a skill most CEOs possess. And for whatever reason, we tend to think it’s other people’s job to communicate with us instead of seeking out and in turn distributing the information we need.

Whether it’s designing a more social business or simply improving communication between departments, change has to be a verb before it can be a noun. It has to start somewhere before it can take root and actually impact the business for the better.

(As for what to change, I’m exploring the different types for an upcoming post. Share your ideas in the comments.)

So how about it? Can you do one thing today that puts the change you seek into your own hands, even a little bit? Are you willing to get your hands dirty to make it happen?

Amber Naslund

image credit: Ciaran McGuiggan