A Constant Challenge: Whether to Initiate Change or Not

Whether to initiate change or not is a constant leadership challenge all leaders face on a regular basis. 

Personally, I love continual improvement. I am someone who actually enjoys change. If things stay the same too long I get bored and begin looking for a new challenge. I even stir things for fun sometimes – just to keep life interesting around me. (This is not always a positive characteristic. Ask my wife.)

Personality aside, however, the truth is not everything needs to be tweaked. Some things are probably working okay, achieving great success, and are best left alone for the time being. Change for the sake of change sake is not always good. When Momma said “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and the other cliché about “the grass is always greener”, she was speaking from some life experience.

There is a fine line between making things better and messing things up. One of the great challenges for the leader is carefully considering the balance intention between instigating change for the good of the organization and allowing things to continue without interference.

Determining when to make change and when to leave things the same is one of the most delicate decisions of leadership, but I know one thing for sure:

It’s working” should also never be the primary reason to avoid change, either.

It could be a reason. But it should not be the fallback reason or used as an excuse not to change.

Here are some indicators whether to initiate change or not:

  • When energy is starting to wane with the status quo
  • If potentially damaging variables are beginning to impact the organization
  • When change can result in greater efficiency or realization of the organization’s mission
  • If it is clear a change will be needed soon to remain competitive or relevant
  • When there is pent up energy for something new (people are waiting for leadership to what’s next)

Organizations and teams need change. (Churches are included here.)

Change keeps momentum going. At times change is needed simply to build a culture of change. And you often discover something wonderful you would have never discovered without change.

Plus – and this is a big one for me – I am always reminded leaders want to be in environments of change. I want to be surrounded by leaders – people who think big, have bold visions, and want to move things forward. Leaders are most comfortable when they can explore, take risks, and keep things stirring. There’s a reason marketers are always changing things – it’s not just leaders who want change – people tend to like change too, even when they don’t think they do. (Apple has made a fortune knowing this.)

Sometimes a little change, even a little drama, will motivate a team into action. Need some momentum? That can be an indicator whether to initiate change or not. 

There is an example which illustrates a change principle of organizational dynamics. You’ve seen it happen many times. Your ball team is behind in the game. The referee makes what you and the rest of your team’s fans believe is a bad call. It energizes the crowd and the team and helps spur your team on to victory.

If things are becoming dull or routine in your organization, as the leader you may need to stir up some change, even if it seems disruptive at the time. There are times to change just for the sake of creating more energy.

This doesn’t mean you change your overall vision and your attempt should be to make a positive change, but if things are stagnating some change may be needed. It would almost be better to have a change that didn’t work than to allow things continue at a standstill.

So while change isn’t always necessary, “it’s working” shouldn’t keep us from considering whether to initiate change or not either.

Which makes the decision of when to change that much more difficult, doesn’t it? I almost need a default zone for when to make change and when to leave things alone.

One rule of thumb for me:

If there hasn’t been any change recently – chances are good it’s time.

What change are you attempting next?

BTW, our latest podcast addresses some specific ways to know it is time for organizational change. Speaking of podcast, Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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