“Change is inevitable, but transformation is by conscious choice.” – Heather Ash Amara
In an era in which we are dealing with constant change, I find it fascinating that as human beings, we are actually pre-wired to resist the changes around us.
If you do some research, you will learn quickly that we actually tend to be pretty lazy! Our brain is more comfortable when we are in routine. It wants to spend most of its time working and behaving in a way that becomes routine for us over time. Think of those moments when we are in auto-pilot mode, like when we brush our teeth or make coffee.
When we introduce change, our brain has to shift into over-drive, which taps into a part of our brain that is primarily responsible for complex, higher-level decision-making. What’s more, if we usher in too much change too quickly, our fight-or-flight response takes over—sometimes referred to as emotional hijacking—and we start to shut down. (Now I will leave my neuro-scientific state).
Our brains are innately designed to protect us from change, especially continual change. Yet as leaders, continual change is not only our reality; it is essential to our business viability. An impossible paradox when you think about it!
Every business conversation today centers around themes of transformation, change management, disruption, and resiliency. Those same themes dominate headlines, TED talks, seminars and the like. Companies are recruiting for Chief Transformation Officers and Heads of Change Management at rapid speed. Analysts continue to demonstrate the direct correlation between transformation maturity and financial performance.
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But more than not, we tend to think of the process of transforming as a magical and miraculous change from a current state to a different state. We attach a destination or finish line to our pursuit. Transformation becomes a checkbox item, a Q1-Q2 initiative, or a line-item on a P&L.
Lost along the way is the emphasis on our own individual and collective mental models. We charge ahead, expecting an ignited effort, but stall out or lose sight of the vision and goal, which is to disrupt industries, markets and behaviors. In the end, what we far too often create is simply a faster way to do the same thing we have always done. Measurable and noteworthy, but not enough to survive or thrive.
In short, our transformation becomes about embracing new behaviors and patterns for a moment in time.
Instead, transformation needs to become a habitual, automatic neural pathway that continues to positively shape our organization for years to come.
For transformation to be successful, it must be bigger than an end goal. Transformation needs to be about embracing the mindset to shape the behaviors and habits that fuel constant disruption and acceleration. As you think about changing your mindset around transformation within your organization, consider the following principles:
- Think Continuous: If you look up the definition of “continuous,” you will find “forming an unbroken whole.” Continuous transformation is about creating momentum, flow, synergy, and resiliency—not instant gratification. At SQA Group, we fundamentally believe that all businesses need to choose to regularly enact disruptive, meaningful change. It’s not always easy but subscribing to continuous transformation is about buckling up and driving towards something better.
- Embrace the Journey: Companies that are truly transformative are always on the journey to next. They don’t view transformation as a destination or program. Rather, they view it as an infinite path towards possibility. They build teams and embrace thought patterns that allow collaboration and innovation to thrive.
- Elicit Buy-In: Transformations are stunted, stalled or even suffer sabotage when we don’t ensure total team mind set buy-in. This summer, Gallup—a firm that studies workplace engagement—reported that we have just experienced the most significant drop in U.S. employee engagement since 2000. Employee disengagement poses a real threat to progress. Remember that change is very personal. As leaders, we need to make sure our team is bought into the vision of where we want to head and the important role they play in the journey.
There’s no doubt the last few months have taught us that assumptions must be constantly recalibrated and challenged. And that teams that possess true change afficionados, and the right mindset, will push their companies to evolve and squash complacency. Oh, and you can’t be afraid to break a few things along the way…
What is one step you can take today to strengthen your company’s mindset around transformation?