Epiphanies for Everybody

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Assumption: Tools and Ways of Working Are Enough

February 13, 20222 min read

Assumption: Tools and Ways of Working Are Enough

Today’s assumption: You can change your organisation by introducing new ways of doing things or new tools.

Everything about your organisation is derived from the beliefs held by those with power. Your senior leaders determine company behavior with their words, actions, and inaction. They determine it with how they reward people, who gets promoted, who gets punished or ignored, and who gets face time. All of which are based on their underlying assumptions about how the world, and organisations, work, and how people think. You cannot achieve sustainable change without addressing the underlying belief system that has gotten you where you are.

The problem is, it’s hard. Tool vendors know it’s hard, which is why they sell tools, instead of real change. Process vendors sell new processes because real change is hard.

Why is selling change hard? Because senior leaders rarely buy change that includes themselves. They buy change for the people that report to them. They see the problem, but not their role in it. If they’re unwilling to accept their own part in the organisation’s problems, then real change is impossible, from the outset. Most vendors don’t sell real change because most customers won’t buy it.

But let’s say you have the great fortune of finding a team of leaders that really want to change, that really want to think differently. Now the hard work begins. Because in order for people to think differently, their underlying belief systems need to be exposed, examined, and changed (assuming they’re willing, once they understand their assumptions). That’s incredibly difficult. We all have lifelong habits derived from lifelong beliefs, and changing them is no mean feat. On top of that, having our beliefs exposed makes us vulnerable, which is a difficult feeling to be comfortable with.

If, after all that, leaders are still willing to go on the journey, the pace of change for the rest of the organisation will be breathtaking. Just like the old beliefs created an entire system of behavior, new beliefs will open those systems to challenge and change, which will echo through the organisation.

If you want lasting change in your organisation, it starts inside your leaders.

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