A new year brings change
A new year often brings new beginnings. I was intrigued to discover how one company used a novel way to motivate employees to think about new ways of doing things.
Here is the approach practiced by Chiyoji Misawa, who founded the largest home builder in Japan, Misawa Homes, more than 50 years ago. He “died” at least once every decade to arrest the momentum of out-of-date assumptions and policies. He sent a memo to his company that formally announced “the death of your president.”
According to Robert H. Waterman, Jr. in his book, “The Renewal Factor,” this was Misawa’s way of forcing the whole company to rethink everything. When employees resist change because they are used to the old way of doing things, Misawa declared: “That was the way things were done under Mr. Misawa. He is now dead. Now, how shall we proceed?”
I was particularly interested in this novel idea because so often the resistance to major changes starts at the top. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But that thinking doesn’t apply to improvements. Simply because things are sailing along, assuming that the winds won’t change is dangerous business. When I went into the envelope manufacturing business decades ago, the notion of email and the internet were science fiction. Yet it became one of the biggest challenges that an envelope manufacturer could face.
Being a great leader is not always about becoming an expert at everything – it’s really about knowing where to find knowledge and expertise when you need it. That’s where Misawa’s genius was most evident: knowing how to solicit input and gain perspective from his own connections.
In turn, he encouraged his work force to learn how others approach new markets, revamp processes and resolve problems. Giving his employees the opportunity to offer their suggestions served several purposes: acknowledging their value to the company, encouraging them to think ahead, and teaching them not to be afraid of change.
Change is inevitable, and those who embrace it are more likely to have staying power as each new year rings in.
New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on areas that we know need a change. Make those resolutions too general or too sweeping, and chances are they will be your resolutions year after year. Alan C. Freitas, president of Priority Management, recommends that you write resolutions/goals that are SMART:
Specific – Precisely what you want to achieve, and by when.
Measurable – What a successful outcome looks like.
Attainable – Challenging, but achievable.
Relevant – Address areas of your work and life that are really important to you.
Trackable – How you’re going to gauge your progress.
Getting into the right mindset to make changes, large or small, takes some motivation.