The Driving Forces of Change
The ability to navigate the never-ending cycle of change is a cornerstone of success for any organization. Change affects everybody, every business, every industry, every day. If you want to create a better future and succeed in your professional and personal life, you must understand the driving forces of change and how to lead, embrace and manage change.
Change can be hard on leaders and team members alike if you don’t have a good understanding of the two primary forces of change: external forces and internal forces.
External forces can be very challenging. These are changes that we usually don’t choose. These include driving forces that shape change like technology, customer preferences, regulations, competitor moves, or supplier and sourcing instability. Disruptions are constantly challenging us to innovate and adapt.
Sometimes these external changes can arise very quickly like a tsunami. Other external changes are like a slow-moving lava flow. You may not like it, but you know it is coming. Regardless of the speed of change, it will take skilled leaders to leverage and capitalize on these dynamic forces.
While internal forces can still be challenging, you have more control over these changes. It is important to remember that any type of change can be hard, and these forces of change will push us to get out of our comfort zone and approach work differently. People tend to crave the status quo and resist things that disrupt familiar and trusted behaviors, processes and systems. It can feel risky to change, so we tend to resist things that seem unfamiliar to us.
When organizations need to be restructured, a new executive is hired, a new product is introduced or a new policy is rolled out, it is going to encounter some questions, cautiousness and push back.
Managing the Driving Forces of Change
The question every leader must ask is how do I deal with these forces of change? How do I work through, endure, and convert these driving forces into opportunity and competitive advantage? There are two primary approaches. You can either react or be proactive.
The Reactive Approach
Reactive people adopt a “wait and see” approach. They tend to hope the change will pass them by or go quickly. They are often in denial and procrastinate acting and focus on the status quo. Change makes reactive people uncomfortable and they have a hard time seeing the silver lining or the possibility of benefits that might arise. So, they hunker down and go into a defensive mode when things change. People who react are very tactical and stay focused on current methods and respond slowly and with little preparation for looming problems and risks that accompany change. They usually do even less to help convert the change into potential advantages, and therefore struggle to assimilate the change and successfully adapt.
The Proactive Approach
The proactive approach focuses on anticipating and preparing for inevitable changes that lie ahead and seeks to minimize threats and risks before they arise. Proactive thinkers foresee the potential opportunities and how to leverage them and focus on those areas of change they can influence. Of course, you are not going to be able to predict and control all the change that comes your way, but you can be more prepared for it and look for the “silver lining.” Proactive people not only embrace change, but they tend to be change agents. They are on the leading edge of the next big thing and propose new ideas and better ways of getting work done.
If your company is going through some driving forces of change, research what is impacting you and the business. Are they things you can control? Can you change or alter products or services to better serve the needs of your customers?
To overcome a reactive approach, engage in strategic leadership and thinking. Pay attention to emerging trends in your profession and industry. If you’re observant, you will gain important insights to help you prepare for the changes that will inevitably impact your company. As a proactive individual, you may not have the resources or authority to do everything you want, but you’ll be prepared for the changing landscape. Instead of addressing problems that require urgent action today because you didn’t prepare in the past, you’ll be able to plan more aggressively and use your resources more wisely. We like to say you can drive or be driven by the forces of change.
Whether you are part of a startup or a well-established organization, it’s important to embrace the driving forces of change. They aren’t going to be all good or all bad, but as you plan, research, and develop a strategy, you’ll be prepared for either outcome.
Being more aware and informed are the first steps to be a proactive individual and driving your organization to new levels of success and in exciting directions. Great leaders have the presence of mind to provide support and engage people in ongoing two-way communication as you help them cope with the internal or external forces of change.