Messages from the Masters
Change: Embrace It or Resist It by Nido R. Qubein

If your company is going to stay in business, it has to change, and that can be scary. For many people, change is more threatening than challenging. They see it has the destroyer of what is familiar and comfortable rather than the creator of what is new and exciting. Most people, and organizations, would rather be comfortable than excellent.

But these days, if you don't change, you stagnate and die. We must implant change in the corporate culture. As a businessman myself, and as an adviser to executives, I've encountered many examples of constructive change brilliantly executed. Let me share with you some of the things I've learned.

People Will Change Only if the Alternative is Worse than the Change

Sometimes it's hard for people to internalize the need for change. A naval aviator once made an interesting observation to me that illustrates the point. He said many pilots have died because they stayed with their disabled aircraft too long. They preferred the familiarity of the cockpit to the unfamiliarity of the parachute, even though the cockpit had become a death trap.

Many businesses have died because their people preferred the familiar but deadly old ways to the risky but rewarding new ways. We must teach them that to stand pat is to perish.

People Hunger for Stability Amid Change

The steady, reliable people in any organization are often fearful of change. We must keep them in mind. We must assure them that change doesn't mean an end to their world; it means a continuation, but with improvements. Here are some things we can do:

1) Explain the reasons for the change. When people understand the logic behind change, it becomes more rational and more comfortable.

2) Show how our plans keep risks to a minimum.

3) Emphasize the things that will remain the same.

4) Let them know what to expect, step by step.

5) Let them know that top management is fully behind the change. Our confidence in the value of the changes will be reassuring to them.

6) Commend them and recognize them for the constructive changes they make.

For Change to be Successful, It Must be Planned

We must be in control of the changes instead of at their mercy. Successful changes are based on values. As Levi Strauss CEO Robert Haas told Harvard Business Review, "Values provide a common language for aligning a company's leadership and its people."

When Honeywell decided to change its orientation from national to global, it adopted a set of values that included integrity, quality, performance, mutual respect and diversity. These values enabled it to steady its course through the sea of change.

Planned Change Involves A Three-Step Process: Softening, Reshaping and Restabilizing

The softening stage is the most uncomfortable for employees. After years of doing things the same old way, they have been hardened into rigid habits. Now they have to unlearn them.

When you want to soften something, you usually apply heat. During the softening stage, we apply heat by attaching a stigma to the old behaviors we want to discontinue. We stop rewarding them. This is the time when you're likely to encounter the greatest resistance to change. Even your management people may dig in their heels. After all, you're changing the system under which they rose to their present jobs.

Here's where you need skillful communication: You must make clear the reasons for change and the consequences of not changing. The gain and the pain must be made clear to managers and employees alike.

Your staff and employees now must learn a whole new attitude toward their work. Managers must see themselves as facilitators, not dictators. Employees must see themselves as value adders, not order-takers or machine operators. This calls for a well-thought-out educational program.

Finally comes the restabilizing stage. During this period, you want the new behaviors to become a natural part of the everyday routine in the work place. Pilot projects can help managers and employees feel comfortable and natural with the new ways during this stage. Let them try out the new methods in "practice runs" to see how they work.

Throughout the change process, everyone from line workers to senior management must be convinced that the company is behind the change. CEOs themselves must take responsibility for encouraging the new behavior. They must model it as they deal with people on as many levels as possible in the organization. It may take years to effect fundamental change, and you should never consider the job finished. Instead, you should look for ways to institutionalize change. When your people are oriented to change and educated in effective ways to bring about change, you're geared up for the future.

To learn more about Nido Qubein and/or to receive 20% off when you order his audios or books, visit

Provided courtesy of  Jim Rohn International