By Richard Hadden
While driving from my in-laws' home near Glasgow,
Scotland, to their neighborhood supermarket, my
attention was arrested by a large, bright red traffic
sign that read, in bold white capital letters -
CHANGED PRIORITIES AHEAD. Fortunately, my wife, a
local, was able to translate the sign (priority = right
of way) and help me through the altered traffic
pattern of the construction zone at the next
Sometimes I think that bright red sign should be
posted at the entrance to most places of business
today, as fair warning to customers, employees, and
suppliers that important things are changing - indeed
they always have - and as a reminder that those who
embrace the change, and adapt, reap the benefits,
and avoid the pitfalls, that change always
OK. Change is tough. Change is unfamiliar (that's why
it's called "change"). But change is also a critical,
vital, necessary part of the development of any
As philosopher Herbert Spencer observed, "A living
thing is distinguished from a dead thing by the
multiplicity of the changes at any moment taking
place in it." Any organization that is alive - such as
yours, I presume - will be characterized by the
vitality of change that keeps it moving toward its
And yet, as the writer James Baldwin said, "Most of
us are about as eager to be changed as we were to
be born, and go through our changes in a similar
state of shock."
Sometimes change is driven by customers, or the
market - hard to argue with that kind of change.
Sometimes it's driven by government regulations -
impossible to argue with that. And sometimes it's
driven by our own success. And that's the best kind
We all make choices about how we respond to
change. And it is a choice. We choose from among
these three options:
1. Resist. Despite the fact that there are
few examples throughout history of successful
resistance to change, we're all tempted to think our
resistance might be an exception. America won its
independence, women got the vote, and mp3's will
soon overtake CD's as the standard for car audio,
despite formidable resistance to each of these
2. Relent. In some cases, we grudgingly
resign ourselves to the change, and trudge toward
the new status quo, lacking the energy, will, or
power to put up much of a fight. Parents often make
this choice when they discover that their once-needy
child has developed into a capable and independent
young adult. I guess this is an example of change
driven by our own success.
3. Rethink. This is what members of
organizations are called to do when presented with
the challenge of change. When this works, and there
are lots of examples of when it does, it is because
people have chosen to become the "architects" of
the change that is inevitable in dynamic entities.
These people reason, "The change is coming.
Now...what can I do to capitalize on it...to 'design'
the change so that I, and the rest of us, become the
beneficiaries of the change, not the victims of it?"
What do Walgreen's, McDonald's, Continental Airlines,
Dunkin Donuts, and Paul McCartney all have in
common? All have nimbly and astutely redesigned -
not reinvented - themselves to not only survive, but
thrive in the midst of turbulent and unprecedented
changes in their respective industries and
Walgreen's has appealed to customers who crave
convenience, by pioneering drive-thru prescriptions,
and developing technology that allows customers to
pick up prescriptions at Walgreen's stores all over the
country, not just the one where the prescription was
McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts have expanded their
menus drastically, each coming back from the brink in
the face of low-fat and low-carb eating habits, and,
in the case of Dunkin Donuts, to give Starbucks a run
for its money.
Continental Airlines, having gone broke twice, is one
of the nation's only full-service airlines not currently
in Chapter 11. They've done it by courageously
facing the new realities of the post-9/11 airline
And as for Sir Paul, his endurance is surpassed only
by his adaptability - a quality that has made his star
shine for more than 40 years as a member of two
highly successful bands, a solo artist, performer,
songwriter, businessperson, and now, knight.
The corporations mentioned above are nothing more
than a collection of people. What has distinguished
these organizations from their less successful
competitors is that, by and large, they have been
populated by people who were willing to
be "architects of change" - people who design their
response to change to work in their collective
* They recognize that change means opportunity for
some; problems for others. They choose to be on
the "opportunity" side of the situation.
* They don't wait to be shown the path. Once the
destination is clear, they take responsibility to chart
the path of change in the way that brings
* Recognizing the challenges that come with change,
they ask, "What can I control? What is beyond my
control?" While others whine about how hard change
is, these architects of change get busy controlling
what they can. For that which is beyond their
control, they ask, "What can I do to mitigate or
lessen the impact of that challenge? And what can I
do to capitalize on the change?"
As you look out on the horizon, and see the natural
and healthy change of your industry, your market,
and your organization, follow this acronym, and make
change work for you.
Chart your path. How will you design your
response to the change?
Head confidently in the direction you've
Align your response with the organization's
goals for successful change.
Navigate carefully the uncertainties you
encounter along the way.
Generate creative ideas for capitalizing on
the benefits of change.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your response.
Make necessary adjustments. Continue in the positive
direction of change.
As we approach the changing of the year, we'd like
to express our heartfelt thanks to every person who
subscribes to Fresh Milk; has encouraged others to
do the same; has bought our books; our CD, and our
downloadable articles, article collection, and white
paper; hired us to speak for their group, consult with
their organization, conduct an employee survey; or
interacted with us in any way. We appreciate your
business, your encouragement, and your interest in
improving your organization's results by having a
focused, fired-up, and capably led workforce.
We wish you the very best in the coming year, and
look forward to the opportunity to be of service to