The late George Harrison had it right in his song “The Light That Has Lighted the World” on his 1973 album, “Living in the Material World.”
“It’s funny how people just won’t accept change,” Harrison sang, “as if nature itself they’d prefer rearranged.”
In his international bestseller, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,” Sogyal Rinpoche wrote, “”I ask myself often: ‘Why is it that everything changes?’ and only one answer comes back to me. That is how life is.”
Buddhist thought focuses on impermanence, the recognition that you and everything around you is constantly changing. It is true, but as Harrison opined, difficult for most of us to accept.
“We so desperately want everything to continue as it is that we have to believe that things will always stay the same,” Sogyal Rinpoche wrote. “But this is only make-believe.”
Some of us hold tightly to our routines. They seem to provide a certain kind of security. Others eschew new ideas, secure in the knowledge that what they have learned over the years provides a world view that is steadfast and reliable. Many of us treat our lives like a TV program, same time, same channel every day, every week, every year.
Change can be scary. That’s why we cling to the tried and true. Change can be uncomfortable, unsettling and uncharted. We know what we’ve got right here, right now, but who knows what will happen if we blaze a new path.
It’s tough enough to embrace change on a personal level. It’s tougher still when you open yourself to organizational change. So many unknowns. So many risks. So many people and perspectives involved. So tough to step out of that comfort zone.
The precept I have always seized on to move myself, and one I have repeated to my son far too many times, is this: In a world of constant change you can let the world act on you or you can act on the world by taking charge of your own life and having the self-confidence that change opens new doors of opportunity.
As public relations practitioners we have no choice. Our profession requires us to embrace change. It is a foundation of our practice.
My long-time friends and colleagues in PR will assuredly agree that change management is an essential part of their work. And they will also agree it is complex, it is hard and it requires a complete commitment.
I have not yet discovered a handbook of change management that offers success for all organizations, in all circumstances and situations. I know I am not going to find one because, above all, change involves people, their many perspectives, personalities, interests and ideas.
Just for grins, though, here are some of the basics on which to build a foundation for organizational change.
• Vision. As a leader, can you inspire people to aspire to the vision you have for your organization? Can you articulate its value, not just to the organization, but to the individuals who are the organization?
• Strategic planning. Can you produce a feasible blueprint for success in achieving your vision? Can you adroitly combine the values, assets and strengths of your organization with a new direction and new ideas?
• Compassion. Are you sensitive to the needs and interests of the women and men in your organization? Are you willing to listen to them? Are you committed to helping them navigate the uncharted waters of a changing organization?
• Communication. PR pros should have this one nailed, but somehow inadequate communication is a common failing in change management. Because of the uncertainty and instability inherent in organizational change it is critical that communication is timely, consistent, frequent, informative, open and honest. Communication is a two-way deal. Again, are you a good listener?
You can do all of these basics and still screw it up. I know I have. When you don’t realize the reward from the risk you’ve taken, the change you’ve pursued, there is only one thing to do, of course—change.