Embrace and Drive Change

Zappos successfully navigated some big changes recently, when the company adopted a holacratic operational model.  No titles, no top-down organizational chart.  Everyone gets a chance to do what they’re good at and love!  This may not be for everyone, and some even left the company.  I think the defectors are missing out.  I pray that someday I get a chance to “fill the shoes” of one of those former Zapponians!

Part 2 of a series.

Zappos Core Value #2:  Embrace and Drive Change

When I think of the word “change,” I think of diapers, nickels and dimes, and employees griping at me because I’m asking them to do something different.

Change is tough for most of us.  We tend to cocoon inside our comfort zones and allow inertia to rule the roost.  But what fun is that?  It may be familiar, but it’s really rather boring.  And it prevents us from moving forward and being all those things that we know deep inside we have the capability of being.

The truth of the matter, however, is that change is inevitable.  Since we can’t avoid it, we may as well embrace it.

There are at least three broad categories of change:  Those changes that we deliberately adopt, those changes that creep up as a product of the passage of time, and those changes that thrust themselves upon us suddenly.

Choosing to make a change can be a bit scary, but at least we chose it and therefore exercise some measure of control.  For example, we might decide to change careers, move to another city or state, or try a new hobby.  While we may be afraid of making the wrong decision, I believe in the old adage “he who hesitates is lost.”  Sometimes you just have to jump in to discover that the water really is fine.  Carpe diem, as they say in Latin.  Seize the day!

Changes that are a product of time aren’t always as noticeable as deliberate changes.  Because they occur slowly, we often don’t notice them until something reminds us of how things were different at one time.  When did traffic get so bad in this city?  How did I become so addicted to my phone?  In some respects, these changes are less troublesome than most, as we don’t have to fret over them.  We may not realize that anything is different until the change has already occurred.

The most disturbing changes of all are those that are thrust upon us.  Rather than tentatively sticking a nose out of the comfort zone, we are summarily flung out headfirst.  The violence implied in this type of change is what we dread.  We associate this with the most troublesome parts of our lives.  In the blink of an eye, we find ourselves in a car wreck, we get laid off from work without warning, a storm tears apart our neighborhood.

Considering the above, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of us resist change.  In the workplace, change tends to be a constant.  Policies change, technology advances, coworkers come and go.  We must make adjustments, and often a lot of training is involved.  However, even when we take the training classes, read the notices and understand the reasons that change is required, a lot of us long for the “good old days.”  There have been times when I have caught employees using outdated procedures that were changed three or four years ago.  When I ask them why, I tend to be met with resistance and hostility.  “I’ve done it this way for twenty years and it works just fine!”  Uh, well, apparently it doesn’t work just fine, or the procedure would not have been changed.  No, we managers don’t stay up nights thinking of unnecessary changes that we can impose on our employees just to piss ‘em off.  The change may have been related to advances in technology that allow us to be more efficient, or it may be the product of a new federal or state law or regulation.  However, not everyone enjoys “keeping up with the times.”

In fact, as a manager, I often find that initiating change is a very difficult endeavor that is met by all manner of whining, moaning and even sabotage.  I expect everything from common grade bellyaching to threats to negative attitudes that, if allowed to continue long enough, can positively poison the workplace.

Among my goals at work is to encourage my people to embrace change.  What new, exciting thing are we going to do?  Change is what keeps us from growing stale.  Better yet, I love it when my staff members drive change, suggest improvements and push me to overhaul hidebound systems.  That’s right:  Sometimes it is the employees who get me to make changes.  After all, they’re the ones with the bright ideas for doing things better.  And we can always do things better.

So why can’t we just enjoy change as a product of the passage of time?  If variety is the spice of life, I’ll take more of that hot and spicy stuff, please.

From everything that I’ve read about Zappos, employees work in an environment of continuous improvement.  Change is expected and, indeed, loved.  You can see why I’d like to work there.  It’s my kind of place!

Tomorrow: Zappos Core Value #3 – Create Fun and a Little Weirdness

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2 thoughts on “Embrace and Drive Change

  1. A change will do you good, change is in the air.. change change change.. I’ve been thinking about it a lot today. WRITING as much as I have today has been a huge change. A magnificent change! And NaBloPoMo is bringing everyone out of the woodwork and we are creating change together with our little words.

    Great post – and cool info on Zappos. Looking forward to reading along and catching up on your life 🙂

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