To paraphrase, Change may be good, but as Larry Johnson,  speaker, corporate culture expert, and author of Absolute Honesty: Building A Corporate Culture That Values Straight Talk and Rewards Integrity, reminded the Big50/Remodeling Leadership Conference audience, "Change is difficult." And business owners must be prepared to lead change as the world changes.

In his talk on the last morning of the conference, Johnson quoted Andrew Grove, author of Only the Paranoid Survive, who wrote that "in any industry, events will occur that herald major changes in the business environment." These are known as "strategic inflection points." Companies must respond to these points appropriately to take advantage of growth opportunities and additional profit rather than go under. "Strategic inflection points force change," Johnson said.

But how do you motivate staff to make the necessary changes? Through examples, stories, and audience participation, Johnson helped conference attendees consider the pros and cons of various methods that might bring about change in an organization:

  • Cash rewards/bonuses work, but be careful: they may become entitlements.

  • Get employee buy-in: Tell people why they should do something, and ask them to come up with ideas of what to do.

  • Make it competitive.

  • Create a sense of urgency. Warn employees of the danger of not doing what the owner wants.

  • Avoid making threats. "If threat is the only way you have to motivate people to change or implement a program, then you're limited," Johnson said.

Using a graph that he developed, Johnson shared a formula for helping to motivate people. When the pain of continuing with the old way of doing things plus the pain of not having things done the new way is greater than the pain of the journey, change will occur (P1 + P2 > P3 = Change). "People need the desire to change," Johnson said, "and you have to make it as easy as possible for them to get there."
Change, of course, doesn't happen overnight. In fact, Johnson pointed out, "the average time to make a change in approach or culture -- or anything else -- is 18 months."