How To Really Drive Change At Work

Jacob Morgan

Jacob Morgan

Creator of "The Future If" Community and Founder of The Future of Work University

Long hours, bad cubicles, tedious work, toxic culture -- there are a lot of reasons why people would want to make a change within their organization. Change can be something as small as getting the office supplies you need or as big as revamping the corporate culture and brand, but no matter the size, change can have a big impact on the morale, growth, and revenue of a company. Change is especially important as we march towards the future of work, as the rate of change is sure to speed up and organizations that are stuck in their ways will likely be left in the dust. But how can you really drive change within your organization that will last and keep your company at the forefront?

Most people automatically think that it's the people that make the change, and that to drive real change you need better leaders and managers. But that isn't always the case. In fact, most people fail to realize that the system you build is more powerful than the people in the system. If your organization is a terrible place to work and you bring in a new manager to make everything better, you'll often find that the new leader doesn't make any changes and could actually make things worse. Even the best intentioned manager is often limited in what he or she can do by the systems that are already in place. A manager who wants to open up communication in an organization can't do much no matter how grand their plans if they are locked into the organization's existing hierarchal system. Just look at how the U.S. presidency works -- the president can't do whatever he wants because there are limits built into the system. The same principle is true within organizations and impacts change both big and small.

Much more than people, systems are what actually create change. If you want change within your organization, you have to revise the system. Changing the system may seem like a daunting task, and that's because it can be. However, updating the system to something that is more open to change is worth the effort and can set your company up for success. Taking the time to change the system makes your company more agile and makes it easier for change to happen quickly and efficiently that reflects what employees and customers want. Instead of disrupting the entire organization, change within a good system is seamless and keeps the company ahead of the competition.

To first drive change, look at the system that is currently in place and figure out how to change it. What practices are broken? What is limiting people from doing what they really want? Where are the roadblocks for new ideas? It could be the organizational structure of how employees report to management, it could be the corporate culture that follows strict traditions, it could be attitude executives have to new technology, or any other number of bad practices. Systems come in a number of forms and can be small and large. Look at how work gets done in your organization and find ways to update and streamline the process.

This is all to say that people aren't important in driving change. Without bold, visionary people in leadership positions, change would never get started in the first place. These people need to take a stand to let others know that changing the strategy and tactics of the organization won't last. They need to be the ones to change the very system and workplace practices the organization uses.

To drive real change, you have to start by rebuilding and rethinking the system.

Learn the proven & powerful concepts in today's most effective organizations with my free training series on Employee Experience here.


How To Really Drive Change At Work was originally published in Jacob Morgan on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The 5 Must-Have Qualities Of The Modern Employee
There is a huge focus on managers and leaders transforming for the future of work. It is not just managers that need to adapt and evolve to the changing workplace; it's also the non-managerial employees. Dramatic changes in the way we work are being fueled by new behaviors and new technologies. In fact, there are five trends which are shaping th...
Read More
Think Of Yourself As An App
Most, if not all, of us have smartphones these days and we all have our favorite apps. Whether you like to use Instagram, Pandora, Google Maps, or Ebay, "there's an app for that".Click here to listen to the podcast minisode.You may have noticed that every once in awhile your apps will update. Just like the apps on your smartphone, we -- as indiv...
Read More
Business Leaders Discuss The Importance Of Diversity
Diversity is definitely a buzzword in today's business world. But more than just a passing trend, diversity should be a core value of every business. Each week I talk with business experts on my podcast The Future of Work Podcast. I enjoy hearing what they have to say about important topics, and diversity is no exception. Here are a few things m...
Read More
5 Signs You're Working For A Truly Great Company
If you were to ask people, "what makes a great company," you would get quite a variety of responses. It's one of those things that's hard to define but easy to identify if you are part of a great company. I've had the opportunity to interview, work and speak with some of the world's top business leaders to find out how they run their respective ...
Read More
Are We Living In The Future Of Work?
There are countless conversations, concerns, theories and ideas about the future of work. Will AI and automation take over? Will we experience major job loss? Will there be a ton of new jobs created? Will we all be on Universal Basic Income and be able to do whatever we want?Listen to the podcast minisode here.But what if the future of work is e...
Read More
How To Really Drive Change At Work
Long hours, bad cubicles, tedious work, toxic culture -- there are a lot of reasons why people would want to make a change within their organization. Change can be something as small as getting the office supplies you need or as big as revamping the corporate culture and brand, but no matter the size, change can have a big impact on the morale, ...
Read More
Say Goodbye To Knowledge Workers And Welcome To Learning Workers
In today's workplace environment, does it matter what you know or how you know it? It turns out how we value workers is changing, and the emphasis now is on learning and adapting instead of coming into a job with the skills required to do everything.In the old system of working, you were often categorized as a "knowledge worker" if you dealt wit...
Read More
Where Is Your Yellow Notepad?
Sam Walton was the creator of Walmart and Sam's Club, two hugely successful retailers that have been around for many, many years. He had a practice that he carried out for many years at the beginning of his career that we may view as simple nowadays, but it was extremely effective and, I think, something we can learn from today.Listen to the pod...
Read More
Don't Empower Your Employees, Stop Disempowering Them
One of the common questions I have been asked in the past is, how do we empower our employees. For me the answer has always been about investing in employee experience. But lately I have been thinking about the root cause of this problem. Why do we need to empower our people in the first place?Listen to the podcast minisode here.If you think abo...
Read More
Five Signs You're Working For A Truly Great Manager
The role of management has changed quite a bit over the past few years. Few people realize it, but the role of management was originally created to maintain the status quo and enforce rules and protocols. Managers were supposed to push employees and extract everything they could from them. Management never cared about engagement, empowerment, or...
Read More