With a title like Epic Change: How To Lead Change In the Global Age, you might think that what Timothy Clark, whose day job is running a consulting and training firm, is talking about is some sort of Cecil B. DeMille Grand Undertaking of Vast Proportions. And for most of us, those sorts of opportunities are few and far between, if at all in existence. An important thing to note about this book is that the implied magnitude of the title notwithstanding, this is a fairly down-to-earth book on how to execute a change program. In fact, the epic of the title is a clever acronym that Clark has devised for the key steps in implementing a change program: Evaluation, Preparation, Implementation, Consolidation. He writes, “During evaluation, the leader continually evaluates competitive reality, internal performance, and alternatives for change as the rest of the organization maintains its current systems...During the preparation stage, the task is to analyze alternative paths for change through experimentation, modeling, testing, and trialing options...During implementation, the organization attempts to achieve desired results by executing the tasks that were planned during preparation...[C]onsolidation occurs when change becomes strong and lasting. This happens as a consequence of sustained results over time.”
What is refreshing about this book is that Clark is more pragmatic than most authors on the subject tend to be. While many change proponents simply imply that transforming one’s self or one’s organization into something else is a simple presto-changeo undertaking, Clark points out, “Change may be big or small, simple or complex, short or long. But in all cases, it carries the requirement of extra work and stress.” Extra work and stress. Swell. Makes you want to initiate a change process right now, doesn’t it. He consoles, “It is critical that leaders not only acknowledge the scarcity of resources such as time, capital, and technology but also recognize and factor in the incremental work and stress that accompany any proposed change.” I don’t want to put you off the idea of change, but there are probably more than a few change initiatives that didn’t take for the simple reason that there was no acknowledgement that the people who are involved actually had their regular work to accomplish, too, so the whole undertaking was something they were as happy with as sunburned feet after the first day at a tropical resort.
Clark is also rather frank in his discussion as to how “organizational change is dependent on a willing offering of discretionary effort,” and that it is up to the leader to assist those who are to change to make that effort. He points out, “During change, people think about the fear of loss before the prospect of gain.” So it is essential that the leader makes the need for change as evident and real as possible.
If all of this isn’t rather depressing, there is another point that Clark proffers: “Leading change is a labor-intensive, often inglorious affair.” And he also comments, “When you start feeling like a grief counselor and a triage nurse, understand that this is your job description as a change leader.” But chances are, if you don’t change, if you don’t work to innovate what you do and how you do it, you may actually need the services of grief counselors and triage nurses, because change—epic or diminutive—is essential.—GSV