Myths about organizational change that are impacting your growth
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Effective change principles from Jeff Bezo’s Day 1 philosophy

3 myths about organizational change that could be impacting your growth

Justin Keller

Justin Keller

Founder, Circle Fifty Creative, LLC

You might be a leader right now, whether it is a pastor or a business owner. You know that there are things you need to change in order to position your company for growth. Even if you know change is necessary, it can be overwhelming to think about. So I wanted to tell you something that maybe you’re not hearing from everyone else.

 

You don’t have to.

 

That’s right; you don’t have to change a thing. You can stay the same. I know your team is telling you what needs to change. Maybe you have had consultants telling you what you need to change. You know what should change, but you don’t have to change.

After all, change is hard. Change requires investments emotionally, and often times, there are potentially great financial, emotional, and relational implications as well. And if what you’re what you’re doing is working, then why would you change?

But my challenge to you would be, if you know you need to make changes in your organization, then what’s keeping your from doing what’s necessary?

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, has an approach to his business that explains why Amazon seems to be such an innovative company – the “Day 1” philosophy.

Bezos said in a Forbes.com article that, “as a company grows, it becomes easy to rely on process rather than the result. In that case, the process becomes “the thing”. When that happens, sometimes companies stop looking at outcomes and only consider whether they have followed the process correctly, not whether the desired outcome was achieved.”

Bezos goes on to describe the benefits of a “Day 1” philosophy. One of the benefits is the ability to make decisions quicker. I have found that as organizations grow the decision making inherently slows down. Quick decisions that were made based on outcome now slow down because we are protecting process or consensus. What does this mean? It means we are slower to make necessary changes, and that impacts our ability to grow and innovate.

He describes “Day 2” like this: “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

"“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”"

Jeff Bezos

After I read that article, I became afraid of “Day 2”. I began to think about some things in my business that I would do differently if I had a “Day 1” philosophy. I didn’t want to become like one of the many once great organizations out there that are barely surviving and scratching their heads wondering why the decline is happening.

The article sparked a lot of challenging thoughts in me, and I’d encourage you to go check it out as well.

But I really started to wonder why so many leaders don’t make the changes that they know are necessary. I’ve lost count of the times that I have heard pastors and business owners say, “Yeah, I know we need to change that but we just haven’t.” What? I made up coffee mugs and tee shirts that say “Don’t Choose Stupid” a few years ago. I think I need to start wearing those shirts to my meetings. I’ve really struggled trying to understand why strong leaders are holding back from doing what they know is necessary for the success of their organizations.

But before I went off on them, I had to ask myself if I’m even making all of the necessary changes that I know I need to. Then, that led me to thinking about what are the things that keep most of us from changing. I know these aren’t all of the reasons, but I believe these are three big myths about making changes that are keeping some of us from experiencing the greatest impact possible.

Myths About Change

1. Big changes are for the broken

There’s a reason broken organizations need to make big changes – desperation. The funny thing (well, the sad thing) is that most organizations that I work with had chances to make subtle changes, take incremental strides, and implement gradual changes earlier. But they chose not to. So, here they are with a forced desperation.

“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch

There are uncontrollable circumstances the either force change, or at least accelerate the rate at which you would’ve implemented change. But for the most part, that day one mentality is what leaders need to have so that they are proactively evolving before the market or conditions require the change. The last thing you want to do is be in a position where you are forced to change because of desperation. Out of desperation you’ll probably cut corners, you’ll force your decisions, and you’ll have to fight harder for buy-in across the organization and with your audience.

Desperation can make even the smartest leader look dumb.

2. Our audience won’t like change

When you started, you didn’t have anyone to cater to. Most pastors that I know started with a handful of loyal friends who had their back regardless of what they did. These pastors were pioneers, and they were able to lead through change and the evolution of their church. At some point, the courage to make change is overrun by the impulse to please and play it safe.

But what I’ve seen in hundreds of conference rooms sitting across from these great leaders is a suppressed urge to follow the instinct that first chartered the growth and success in their church. That saddens me. I know there’s wisdom in counsel and not going rogue and leading with impulse. But if you’re not careful, then you will find yourself looking back saying, we should’ve changed sooner.

People will follow if you lead with humility, clarity and confidence. And the reality is that as you evolve, not everyone is going to go with you. But I can’t help but to think that if they are going to leave because you are willing to make the right changes, then it was only a matter of time before they left anyway.

What a shame it would be to dismiss necessary change and make permanent decisions based on temporary people.

3. We’ve changed too much

I get it. You’ve made a lot of changes over the years, and people have had to adjust quite a bit. Maybe you implemented ideas too quickly, only to have to recant those ideas? Or maybe you’ve been known to be reactionary, and you’ve lost some equity with people because of that? It’s highly likely that the previous statements are true of most of the great visionary leaders that I get to work with. Guess what? There’s still no excuse worth it that should keep you from making necessary changes.

 

"Desperation can make even the smartest leader look dumb."

Justin Keller / @kellerthinks

When you’ve made a lot of changes in the past, it doesn’t mean you can’t make necessary changes for the future. However, it does mean that you have to navigate this with precision instead of reactionary feelings and impulses.

You’ll want to consider these critical things:

1. The timing and the pace is critical

It may require you to move at a slightly slower pace than you’re comfortable with, but it will allow you the margin to be more strategic in the way you introduce and implement necessary changes.

2. Communication is critical

The right communication can help you quickly overcome hurdles and proactively answer questions that may exist. It’s important to allow humility, vulnerability, and confidence to lead your communication strategy when you’ve been known to make a lot of changes.

3. Input and buy-in is critical

There are going to be people who inherently won’t like the change you make. And that’s fine. But when you’ve been known for making a lot of changes, you need to make sure you have had outside voices help guide your decisions. You need to have buy-in (not just acceptance) from your key leaders.

Final Thought

Change is hard. you can make the choice to say no to making necessary changes, but why would you? Attached to your organization, there’s a greater impact that stands to be made if we don’t loose that “Day 1” mentality and if we do not let the myths of change keep us from doing what’s necessary.