Consider the changes we have experienced since the millennial celebration. There have been wars, stock market bubbles and crashes, technological changes, social change, global change, political change, and economic change. It is most likely that rate of change over the next 15 years will at least continue.
While transformation, disruption, and abandonment are necessary strategies for every organization, there is also the fundamental need for continuity. Without continuity change cannot happen.
MIT professor and author Peter Senge said, “There’s a principle in biology about the history and evolution of species. A famous biologist said, “history is a process of transformation through conservation.” It is precisely the way that nature preserves a very small set of essential features that allows everything else to change. As human beings living and working together at some level, we’re always asking the question, “What are we preserving?”
This is an important question for the organization to wrestle with. Products will change, processes will change, customers will change. What are the elements of the corporation that will not change?
Peter Drucker added, “…it’s by no means an accident that all animals have the same number of heartbeats during their lifetime-forty million? Once nature learned that this is optimum, it preserved it and didn’t play around with it. If you look at organizations, what is the equivalent? It is trust, and we are not really doing the things needed to preserve the trust in organizations. Trust basically means some predictability”
He went on to say, “You do things differently, you have to, with different tools, with different markets, but the things you fundamentally are committed to remain the same. They are values; they are not tools.”
Simon Senek has made it quite popular to discuss the “Why” of the organization, the purpose or reason for being. While important, the answer to this question will probably change as society and markets change. Jim Collins would say you need to focus on “Who?”. This is also an important, but people change and move around.
Values answer the question of “What?”. What are our beliefs that must be preserved? This is the continuity that must be preserved to create change. Many of us go through the exercise of stating our values, beliefs, or convictions and maybe even hanging them on the wall or posting on the website. Have you dusted them off recently to see if they are being protected and preserved? These are the guard rails for you and your people that through change they can trust.