“Well Jeff, we’d like to bring you in to help us develop our leaders further, but we just put completed a change in our reporting structure and want to give the company a rest before we consider something new.”
After a major change like restructuring, a new product launch, or implementation of a major system, it’s common for organizations to want to ‘take 5’ while things stabilize. In fact, I used to recommend it. Not anymore.
We all know change is constant, so why fool ourselves into thinking that we can stand still for a beat? If you stop moving and the competition does not, you risk getting left behind or buried. Think about Nokia, Blackberry, and taxis.
“…questions about where an organization should be headed are challenging. They assume that no matter how strong an organization’s present position, the status quo is always on trial.“
~ Tregoe & Zimmerman, Top Management Strategy, 1980
Worse yet, some companies are so pleased with what they’ve achieved that they forget how quickly tactics and strategy are copied. Once people are locked in to a successful status quo, it’s tough to break out again even as the world changes around them.
While it’s true that employees who have been working hard need time to recuperate, there are many ways to replenish energy while still moving. When you feel a need for a rest keep these truths in mind:
- A change of scenery alone is often more energizing than doing nothing. The brain wakes up in new environments.
- A reduction in pace periodically allows people to sprint again.
- Swapping tasks for ones that use different skills and parts of the brain are often invigorating.
- Teams succeed by rotating intense tasks among members. Consider the peloton in cycling.
When you are at your busiest, that is the best time to test the limits. Resilient organizations keep pushing forward and accelerating. It becomes the norm. They capitalize on the momentum of change, that state of organizational malleability that enable rapid shifts and innovation.
After a major change, don’t plan on a break. Instead, have a celebration, and then plan activities that keep you moving:
- Reinforce and embed desired behaviors
- Monitor results with customer, employees and vendors and set checkpoints for adjusting course
- Check the assumptions that led to the change in the first place. Are they still valid?
- As one part of the business needs rest, push another to the front.
Leading organizations do not take breaks after sustained periods of change. They look to the next opportunity before they finish the current one. Strategy is not fixed. Its evolves over time. That’s why so few projects deliver the original scope. It’s not all failure. Requirements shift in response to changing inputs from within and outside the company.
Changing Your Mind
When a client or manager or team says, “We need to take a break”, consider:
- Who really needs a rest? Where does energy need to be restored?
- What can we change to re-invigorate our teams?
- Can we reduce pace for a time to keep moving?
- To what other strategic elements can we shift our focus to give ourselves a mental break?
Past success does not guarantee future success. Don’t let corporate rigor mortis set in. Change does not take a break. Neither should you.
Jeff works with growing businesses and aspiring non-profits to help them establish and execute leading strategies. He also works with executives who want to accelerate their growth. Learn more about Jeff here