As many of you know, two of my favorite quotes are “The only thing inevitable is change” and “If you don’t like change, you should learn to love irrelevance”. I’m not sure who I first heard say them, but I use them to remind myself and my team that we have to be aware, flexible and prepared. In I.T., we have about 18 months (or less is some cases) before the next big thing comes along. So we really work on pivot points which can give us the false sense that all changes are hard turns and not gradual events. This can lead to missing the subtle changes that come along over time– like how I have put on 30 lbs. since college and that my hair looks a little grayer. Or, more importantly, how less engaged we are at work or how happy a client is with our work. All of the sudden we recognize these things one day and ask “When did this happen?” Much like boiling a frog. Okay, stay with me here. If you drop a frog in boiling water it will jump out. This is because it can perceive there has been a change in temperature that isn’t good for its well-being. But, if you put a frog in room temperature water and slowly raise the temperature it will happily sit there until it succumbs to the heat. This is because it can’t perceive the gradual change.
So how do we deal with gradual change? The first step is to be AWARE. To me there are 3 things you need to be aware of. The first is to be aware of what matters. I probably should be more aware of my weight as it is important to my long term health. My gray hair may not be all that important beyond my vanity. Employee engagement and client satisfaction are the two most important things to me as a business leader. So, once you have determined WHAT is important to be aware of, then you need to be aware of WHERE you are. With my weight, I know where I am because that scale taunts me to get on it every few weeks. For employee engagement and client satisfaction, there may be standards you can learn. For example there are methods to measure them and from those measures set expectations. The third and last part of awareness is to be aware of where you SHOULD be. Since I know what my weight is and what standards are for a healthy weight for my height, it is easy for me to say I am not at an ideal weight. With regards to clients and employees, we survey clients after all our service tickets and our employees throughout the year. We have used those efforts to set our standards and now use those standards to know when we are not on track.
These efforts and others help us track some of the major things that can change gradually over time. We do this in hopes of avoiding the proverbial “hot water”. What you have to do for each to get back on track can be straight forward (i.e. to lose weight, I need to eat less and move more) or it can be complicated (i.e. how do we get our employees to not only get engaged but stay engaged?). In each case, you have to evaluate the starting point and determine when change occurred. Then, look for the cause of change and determine the path back to where you want to be. Otherwise you end up like the frog; in too hot of water before you realize it.
So what has changed in your life/job that you realize isn’t as you want or expected? What are you doing to fix it? A always drop me a line and let me know what you think.