Jack Welch famously quipped, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
Out of the original fortune 500 companies, a list compiled in 1955, only 11% remain.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
And yet a study of organizational change concluded that only 10% of changes delivered the time, quality, and result expected. It’s rather disconcerting to know that only 90% of change fails and that paradoxically, in order to survive, we must be constantly changing.
No one wants to look ignorant, incompetent, intrusive, or negative. The problem with this, though, is that this leads us to ask fewer questions, hide our weaknesses and mistakes, withhold our ideas, and stops us from critiquing ideas and the status quo.
And yet, there is path to getting 1% better every day. Leading successful and continuous change lies in asking more questions, learning from mistakes (and our successes), working on our weaknesses (as a team and as an individual), sharing our ideas (great ideas usually come on the back of 3-5 bad ones), and questioning the status quo.
The key lies in creating physiological safety.
Amy Edmonson work on the fearless organization is a must read for any leader. Her 11-minute video is the perfect way to start to grapple with what you must do as a leader to help the organization move away from the fight-flight-freeze mentality.
We did not know to call it physiological safety but at the core of all of our transformational work with organizations lies the creation of a place where we can safely learn from and challenge the strategic direction and the execution of activities.
Strategically, do you stop every 90 days to challenge everything you “know” to be true about the organization? We work with organizations so that they stop for two full days to align on why they exist, what they are creating, what hurdles are in the way, and what blind spots they’re missing.
Every day, at the execution level, whether it is sales, ops, or some form of admin, we help organizations as the question: What prevented you from having a perfect day? We frame the question around a perfect day because it releases the pressure. No one can have a perfect day. And even when you exceed all expectations there are still challenges you had to overcome. That conversation is even better if everyone clearly understands the process (the flow of work).
Where you have both uncertainty and interdependence of activity (pretty much all work today), high psychological safety and high accountability will propel an organization into the learning zone.
And this is where the magic happens.