Whenever you analyze the successful changes in an organization or team, you most definitely will figure out that they were driven by someone who believed they had been on a mission to reform their working environment. It could be a ‘lone ranger’ or a group of like-minded people who eventually gained the support of a representative of senior management. The latter usually becomes reformer’s influential sponsor and defends the necessity for a change in front of other executives.
Change Is Their Religion
When we talk about the change, we mean almost any change, even the slightest one: modifying the way operators answer phone calls, redesigning the contact form or corporate website, restyling company’s logo, etc. And of course, we refer to such important events as releasing a new product, launching a new service, streamlining workflow, alternating a marketing strategy or company structure as changes as well. All of that requires an effort from change champions to overcome organization’s inner bureaucracy, passive opposition or even full-fledged sabotage. Yes, this is exactly what you could expect from people whose major value in life and work is stability and whose primary argument against the change is that “we are just fine because we’ve been doing this for ages.” Such people cannot even see the basic contradiction in their claim: doing something the same way for a long time almost definitely means that this way is outdated and calls for a change!
Yet, these obstacles can’t stop a true champion in his or her fanatic desire to bring changes. Dedicated reformers are very often irrational, unreasonable, and impatient. It may seem that to him or her, the fact of the change matters more than the result it would bring. In short, they are revolutionaries as any status quo is there enemy.
This is often the reason why change champions get suppressed by higher management, which values total control and perfect order. Such executives want any change to be discussed several times on different management levels, assessed by accountants, approved by the board of directors, planned far ahead and scheduled accurately to a tenth of a second. When or if a would-be reformers find him- or herself in such environment that oppresses their basic instinct, they have not that many options left:
- Give up, conform, and become a part of the organization’s bureaucratic system.
- Do not mind management’s taboos and keep pushing and implementing smaller changes while staying under the boss’ radar.
- Leave for another, more flexible organization (possibly, startup) or to strike out on their own.
In any case, the company that drives a change champion out loses. So, an organization better start learning how to foster them and direct their zeal where it can bring the best effect.
How to Treat Change Champions
Having a change champion or champions in a company is a great piece of luck. Their learning abilities, gushing energy, revolutionary ideas, and unbounded creativity are things, which have a potential to make them leaders and boost organization’s performance. But you cannot actually manage this stream; instead, you must accurately direct it.
At every opportunity, explain to them an organization’s mission, vision, and values over and over again. This way a champion will start to charge ideas, initiatives, and improvement suggestions against company’s strategic goals. If, in addition, he or she comprehends the significance of maintaining a fragile harmony between variations and constancy, that is where the biggest benefit of having a change champion in your team emerges, and the synergy of innovations and company’s resources is unleashed. All that change champions need at that point is protection from the organizational bureaucracy – and the success would be not long in coming!