The challenge of changing the status quo

I believe that one of the reasons people resist changing the status quo is because every change creates winners and losers. (See my “Why do people resist change?” blog entry.)

This insight is not new; in fact, one of the most influential authors of all time identified the challenge of implementing change 1,500 years ago this year.

“And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

“Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.”
The Prince by Nicolo Machiavell, 1513

The chemistry of strategy is about affecting a change in the status quo. It starts with the leadership team agreeing on what they want the future to look like and why. The how of changing the status quo, which usually cuts across the entire organization, comes through the sustained effort of the leadership team. The first group to embrace change must be the leadership team. They must resolve how to balance all the personal short-term negatives of change with the long-term positives for the their organization. Once the leadership team puts the plan in place, the real work begins. To quote Winston Churchill:

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Over the past two decades, we at Myrna Associates have identified and refined the elements that enable teams to change the status quo for the better in their organizations.

Thirty-seven years after my first encounter with strategic planning, I continue to be struck by the power of that process to shake up the status quo in a positive way. The right rules, roles, and process will consistently deliver results. You can find specifics in the articles on our web site and our books on Strategic Planning and Meeting Management.

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