“Change Ninjas” survive to fight another day!
Herb Shepard directed the first doctoral program focused on successful organizational change and performance. In 1975, he published “Rules of Thumb for Change Agents” which have held up surprisingly well to the test of 40+ years of time. Let’s take a look at one of them.
RULE I: Stay alive.
Organizations are designed to deliver results but the world is changing around them. When change is triggered externally, most organizations find struggle to find the right people to help them respond. So, when a few brave souls take up the mantle of ‘change agent’ you would think that they would be celebrated…but that’s not usually the case. “Antibodies” in the organization, often at the middle management level, attack the internal change by convincing those who will listen why ‘it’s not a good idea’ and ‘things are fine just the way they are’.
How do you survive the attacks from those internal antibodies? Become a Change Ninja…wait, a what!?!
The two main roles of historic ninjas were espionage and strategy. Change Ninjas gather intelligence about the organization around them and figuring out ways (a.k.a. strategies) to influence the organization (most often indirectly). After peacefully living in the current system, Change Ninjas can jump out of their camouflaged position once opposition to change has been reduced.
Some budget is available? Shed the camouflage and make a strong case for directing it toward the growth project. A team needs a new member? Make sure to nominate someone who is sympathetic to the changes that need to take place.
Why the camouflage? Shepard says it best. He “counsels against self sacrifice on behalf of a cause that you do not wish to be your last.” Risks are necessary but make sure that they are “taken as part of a purposeful strategy of change, and appropriately timed and hedged. When they are taken under such circumstances, one is very much alive.”
When you need to make a major change, become a Change Ninja and live to fight another day!