Change is inevitable but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. But you can make it easier by playing the role of Change Agent as opposed to being the Change Guard.
The past week’s events in the Middle East made us all reflect on how major changes occur and what the implications can be. No plan can account for everything that can happen. But the people in any organization can greatly influence how quickly and how successfully changes are deployed. The images from Egypt were both moving and disturbing to me and probably you. One of the video clips that
bothered me the most was of the guys riding horses into Tahrir Square whips in hand. The riders are reportedly involved in tourism and chose this as the method of displaying their opposition to the changes taking place. Other reports accused the riders of being Mubarak’s paid thugs. I don’t know which is true but I know these guys were adamantly resisting change.
This is in contrast to Wael Ghonim the young Google marketing executive that was involved in coordinating the initial demonstrations. He is now one of the voices of the change movement. I saw a few minutes of an interview with Ghonim on Bloomberg. He demonstrated such optimism and enthusiasm for change that it is easy to see how he helped motivate other young Egyptians. His influence as a change Agent was very powerful.
Planned or unplanned change is not automatically a good or a bad thing but you can make it worse by always playing the change guard instead of the change agent.
I’m sure you have spent countless meetings where something new was introduced and one person in the meeting was the outspoken change guard. Change Guards are the self-annointed curmudgeoins that loudly oppose anything new. As I bought school supplies for the kids and a couple of items for my wife today at the office supply store I was reminded of the images from Egypt. My wife is a huge fan of the ultra fine tip Sharpie pens. She uses them exclusively instead of ball points or other ink pens. As I picked out a pack of the Sharpies, I pictured a marketer speaking of the new initiative to expand the traditional Sharpie market by coming out with pens that would directly compete with ball point pens. Then I had this image of the guy on horseback cracking the whip stating that Sharpie could never compete in that market and it was a really bad way to distract them from core businesses…
Be a Change Agent when the cause is fair and good not a Change Guard.