Are we capable of change?

In Canada, there will be a great deal of change coming our way in the next few years as we begin to introduce privatization into many industries. We have already seen it for some essential municipal services and some basic provincial healthcare services, but soon we will see it on an even larger scale.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome will be our perception that privatization is a bad thing. We are so used to the government providing us services that we think they are the only providers we should have. Yet at the same time, we complain about the services we are receiving and that our tax dollars are being wasted. Sounds like our expectations and our behaviour is out of whack.

In Ontario, beer sales are already privatized under Brewer’s Retail, which is jointly owned by three private beer companies, yet most people think it is run by the government. There are private healthcare clinics where people can pay for the services that they need. We have public-private partnerships where much of the funding for certain public services is being provided by private companies. Privatization is all around us and should not be a dirty word, when done properly.

With the amount of change we will see in the next few years, the biggest question I ponder is, “Are we capable of making the necessary changes?” For most change initiatives, there are only three groups of people:

  1. The early adopters, who are constantly looking for change and embrace it. These people represent about 20% of any group.
  2. The masses, who will go along with almost any change initiative without much resistance. These people represent about 50% of any group.
  3. The dissenters, who will never embrace any form of change. They represent the remaining 30%.

If you focus on the first two groups, you will be successful. Here are some things we need to work on in order to increase our capability to deal with the coming changes:

  • We need to embrace new ways of operating and let go of the past. Just like a snake sheds its old skin each year, we need to shed our old ways of thinking and doing business. When industries change, the business models within those industries also need to change. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to work. In fact, most times it won’t.
  • We need to create ambassadors for change and arm them with the tools to help with the transition. Recruit ambassadors from the early adopters group (and you might even get some from the masses) and have them help make the change by supporting their colleagues and developing easier methods for transition. If these ambassadors are chosen appropriately and at all levels, people will follow them.
  • We need to anticipate the risks and take actions to mitigate those risks. There are always going to be risks associated with any change, but we need to identify what the possible risks and roadblocks are and take steps to remove or mitigate them.

Change that is forced from the top-down will never work, but the vision from leadership needs to be clear. There needs to be a clear road map to get from where you are today to where you need to be and set up sign posts along the way for people to follow. If you remove the fear of the unknown, people will be more open to making the necessary change.

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