Change is all about the why. Anytime you want to make any sort of change the first question you have to be able to answer is why. What is the “why” behind the change? The why is the reason, the motivator, the purpose, and the strength that allows change to occur.
Most people want to start with the “what” or the “how.” Some even jump right into the “when.” We are attracted to the technical aspects of the change, or what we think the end result of the change will accomplish. Yet, change is hard. Whether you’re leading yourself or a group of people down the road of change, you will find opposition. If it is a personal change, you’ll fight yourself; if it is a change that affects a group, members of the group will fight you. It will not matter how detailed your plan is or how determined you are at this moment, there will be dissension. For whatever reason, any change, no matter how small, is controversial. It does not matter if the change is good or not, it threatens what we know and are comfortable with and for this reason alone, many people’s natural reaction is to fight change off, and they will stand their ground with ferocity.
Nevertheless, change is necessary for progress, even for survival. So, how do you help get everyone on board? Shoot, how do you really get yourself onboard? I have heard many theories on this topic. Most revolve around having a solid structure, plan, system, and deadline in place for implementing change. Sure, these are extremely important for the overall success, but these are not the things that put our own minds or any other naysayers at ease.
People have to understand the why, the reason behind the change. This is true if you’re trying to stick to a personal diet, lead your team down a new path, or simply changing a policy or procedure that people are used to. It is the “why” that helps determine the actual necessity of the change. It is the “why” that determines how much pain, discomfort, and sacrifice we are willing to endure for the change. A weak “why” will lead to weak responses and ultimately a failure in the implementation of the change.
A strong “why” will provide a clear understanding of the purpose for the change. A strong “why” will encourage and motivate people to go through any number of difficult transitions. Why? Ultimately, people want to know that there is a purpose and a meaning behind what they do. Change for the sake of change is maddening, but a clear reason, need, and defined outcome all of a sudden makes change seem exciting instead of dreadful.
Lastly, asking why we are changing helps weed out bad ideas. Sometimes, as leaders, we can get so caught up in the idea of change, the need to change something or anything, becomes so overwhelming that we can get tossed in every direction. This is especially true if change is coming about in the face of disaster or failure. Change is a good thing, but not all change is good. So, the next time you find yourself face to face with change, don’t scurry away in fear, but don’t leap before looking either. Slow down and take the time to ask the critical questions and get to the heart of why the change in front of you should be followed. It will help strengthen your resolve if the change is good, and help point out the flaws if it would take you in the wrong direction or distract from what is really important.