“The most important thing about change is timing”

Change is one of the most popular topics in Leadership. We hear that stagnent organizations never change, and that the people in those organizations are totally against it. We hear that to be successful, we must change and adapt to the current and future environment, and we hear that it is us as leaders that are responsible for identifying and envoking change. All of this is true, but the act of “changing” something can be disasterous if it is done at the wrong time. The right change at the right time is a winner, whereas the right change and the wrong time is uneventful.

Change must be thought out. It must be planned. It must be sold, and it must be done in context with the environment and current/future demand. Change can be very frustrating because it feels like nothing happens fast enough. Our first thought is, here is what we have to do, lets go do it – no brainer. The reality is that change does take time, and how/when we roll it out determines the success of executing and achieving the organizations’ new goals.

The larger the organizaton, the more time it takes to make changes because bigger usually means less agility. Take politics for example. Each candidate is pushing for some sort of change(s). They start off by planning what changes they will push, and then spend most of their time selling those changes to the consituents. If they push the wrong change at the wrong time (an unpopular change) or via the wrong media, they will lose. It is obvious who the real candidates are once you hear what they are pushing and see how they are going about it. These candidates likely gain the buy-in by supporting the right issues at the right times. However, one bad thing about politics is that the changes do not happen until years after they are voted on, or maybe that is a good depending on the issue. At any rate, not trying to fix politics here, just giving an example.

Some large organizations are able to remain very agile, or at least they appear to be. They may use some sort of “change-management” methodology to help them streamline change, or they may be throwing so many people at things that they are more efficient than their competition. Take Apple for example, they seem like fast paced innovators to all of us, and rightly so. They likely have the culture and the processes to support change even though they are a large organization. And one thing they surely focus on is the timing of launching products. How long ago do you think they first had the vision to create the “iPad”? Is it conceiveable that they had the idea before the Amazon Kindle was released and they continued to develop and wait until the market became educated on these tabular devices? Knowing that the launch would be even more successful if they could offer value and features that are far superior at a similal cost? The public needed to be ready for it and Amazon may have just helped educate the market and prime the pump. Who knows, but it would not be surprising because Apple knows the power of timing.

Timing is everything. If we are unsuccessful in making a change that we are certain is needed, we must regroup and move forward executing. There is only a window of time and if it shuts on us, the opporutnity for a positive impact is lost. Be hungry, be thorough in getting buy-in, and then execute at the right time.

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