Change For The Sake Of Change Is Not The Best Strategy

Posted by Rick DeMarco on 13 August 2015

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Whenever a new executive comes into an organization, the natural inclination is to change strategies, brand positioning, or just executional direction. Often this change is made without regard to the level of engagement around the current efforts, or the momentum that may exist in the organization. Now don’t get me wrong! The power to change is the power to grow. John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” But change for change’s sake can be more damaging to your efforts towards creating an engaged and inspired workforce than no change at all. Some leaders change things they shouldn’t change and don’t change those they should. John Luke Jr., Chairman and CEO of global packaging giant, MeadWestvaco, said 'Change simply for the sake of change is an abdication of leadership'.

Effective leaders change things when they are not achieving their goals and objectives on the current path or when they see a way to get there more quickly, effectively, and efficiently. This means that before making changes, a leader should take the time to see what’s working and what’s not, to assess changes in the competitive landscape, to assess changes in market conditions, and to review other factors that would indicate that a change is necessary.

When I became VP of Marketing for Carrier Residential, I kept my mouth shut and listened for about 6 months to assess the success of the current brand strategy, the quality of staff, the market conditions, and the competitive strategies. Only after understanding what was working and what wasn’t did we start making changes to the brand strategy, distribution strategies, product strategies, and staffing. And it was not a carte blanche change. We left things alone that were working well and only changed things that needed to be changed.

Let me end by providing some context around these thoughts. Changing strategy and vision is quite different from changing executional direction or tactics. By definition, strategy and vision are long-term propositions. Therefore, changes at a strategic level should be made only after understanding the reasons and factors that make that change necessary. It’s very difficult to keep employees engaged and inspired if the vision and strategy keep changing. Executional and tactical changes are made, not only with changes in leadership, but simply as a result of effective leadership behavior. So remember, change for change’s sake without understanding the reasons or drivers can lead to a confused and disengaged workforce, and can sometimes actually do more damage than not changing at all.