There is a famous quotation about doing things differently that has been variously attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and even as an old Chinese proverb. My research indicates, however, that its first known appearance in print is in “Sudden Death” by Rita Mae Brown and it goes like this, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”


I find this ironic. The definition of insanity is exactly what human nature clings to…consistency, reliability, dependability, stability…and expecting the results to be different. It reminds me of the story about a young mother cooking her first thanksgiving turkey. As she cuts the turkey in half, putting both halves into the oven, she asks her mother, “Mom, why do we cut the thanksgiving turkey in half before we put it in the oven and then hope it won’t be dried out?” Her mother replies, “Well darling, I’ve always done it that way, and you’re right, it does always end up being a bit dry. Let’s ask your grandmother since she taught me how to cook.” Grandma was in the other room and when asked about the halving of the holiday bird prior to roasting she said; “Well, honey, I never really thought about it. I’ve always hoped the turkey would turn out moist and it never did. My mother taught me how to cook a turkey so many years ago, let’s ask her.” Well, the family matriarch and Great-grandmother was sitting in the den enjoying the sounds of young children playing at her feet as she rocked in her favorite rocking chair. The young mother cooking her inaugural family thanksgiving feast gently touched her hand and asked, “Great-grandmother, tell us, we want to know of our family traditions, why do we cut the turkey in half before we place it in the oven hoping against hope that it will not dry out?” To which the soft-spoken octogenarian replied, “Darlin’, that’s easy. Cutting the turkey in half was the only way I could fit a whole bird in that tiny oven I had at my first house. We only dreamed of having an oven as big as yours back then.”


You laugh. But it happens in business too. We do things because, “We’ve always done it that way.” That, and change is scary. So crippling is the fear of change, that there is an entire domain in the management practice dedicated to helping individuals and organizations cope with this phobia – “Change Management.” It’s ironic because in my 29 years as a management professional, the only constant that I’ve found IS change. Therefore, embracing the fear of change, I suggest that we declare the end to “Change Management” and the birth of “Doing It Differently” (DID). To usher in our new era of DID, here are Seven Requirements of DID. When called upon, implementing these seven requirements will create a team that will do things differently quite naturally.


Requirement 1 - Understand the “why” and the “what” of the change and then communicate it to others. “Because that’s the way the boss wants us to do it” has never been a good reason. Neither is “because it says so in the employee handbook.” If you are serious about getting your team to do things differently, you have to listen to their favorite radio station – WII-FM – “What’s In It For Me”! (Incidentally, this station also was playing on great-grandma’s victrola when she first hacked that bird in half!) Clearly and openly articulating why things are going to be different as well as what exactly is going to be different (and more importantly – what is staying the same) is a critical step to gaining team buy-in to doing things differently.


Requirement 2 - Be candid about the magnitude of the change and put it in the proper perspective. The first key word here is “candid.” You notice the requirement does NOT say to be “honest” about the magnitude of the change. It might sound like semantics, but the difference is this: candid is honest AND comprehensive. Honesty alone isn’t enough. The second key is this concept of perspective. Even in the most wide-sweeping organizational change, proper perspective can reduce the barriers to doing things differently. Identifying what will stay the same comes in handy here too!


Requirement 3 - Identify individual’s fears and concerns and work through them. As has already been said – change is scary. Fear in the workplace is a funny thing. It can occur at the individual level, or it could spread throughout the entire team. At the micro level, what scares one team member about changes in the workplace may be a non-issue for another. However, fear can also spread quickly throughout the office via rumors, suppositions, and overly dry poultry. Helping team members identify their individual fears and concerns is an important role for a leader during times of DID.


Requirement 4 - Give people an opportunity to grieve the loss of their dear friend: familiarity. As Shakespeare said, “He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend.” As humans, we are drawn to consistency and familiarity. It provides comfort and security. There’s a story of a Fortune 100 company that just laid-off over 400 people. One enterprising leader decided to display a coffin in the work area and offer an opportunity for co-workers to place mementos of “the old days” in the coffin, in a time-capsule way, which was then buried outside the offices. The entire team was not only permitted, but also encouraged to participate. In today’s sometimes backward world, you have to wonder how a visionary leader like that wasn’t one of those laid off. The team was lucky they weren’t.


Requirement 5 - Don’t just poke at it ... make the change! We’ve all heard “rip the band-aid off quickly.” In this sense, be skeptical of “multiple phases” and protracted timelines. Change is hard. Change is scary. Why keep cutting the bird in half – put the entire bird in the oven and see what happens! When you want to DID – remember the Chinese proverb made famous by Evel Knievel, “It doesn’t work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps.”


Requirement 6 - Stay focused on what’s most important right now. You have a business to keep running. Customers to serve, products to produce and/or deliver, invoices to send (hopefully) and all the other trappings of keeping a successful operation…well, operating. No one can predict the future, but right now – take Elvis Presley’s lead and TCB, baby…“Take Care of Business.” Don’t let change get in the way of…well, the parts that stay the same.


Requirement 7 - Celebrate the transition once the change has been accomplished. Sure, you may not feel like celebrating, but recognizing and rewarding behaviors is proven to increase the likelihood of the behaviors being repeated. You’re doing things differently, but what stays the same is life goes on and your business continues to exist – and hopefully thrive. While you may not be flush with cash after a major organizational change, celebrations are always popular among the team, so don’t miss the opportunity to do so. Celebrate the small stuff – like a moist turkey.


At the end of the day, stay flexible, things change. The next time there is a need to change "It" – don’t. Just do “It” differently. Whether it was Einstein, Franklin, Twain, or Brown, practicing the Seven Steps to Doing It Differently (DID) won’t drive you – or your team – insane.


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