Thursday, October 26, 2006

Machiavelli, Fist Fights and Managing Change

Fist fights and change initiatives require similar mindsets. Whether you are right or wrong, win or lose, flying high or lying low, you will get bruised.

One of my favorite works on the dangers associated with leading change resonates from the pages of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” published nearly 500 years ago.

“And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things,” the founding father of political science wrote, “because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”

Agree or disagree with his famed cut-throat, ends-justify-the-means strategies, Machiavelli understood the perils of change. Effective leaders today understand communication plays a large role in effectively managing change.

Clients of ours run into journalists with agendas, activists who bristle at anything new and others who react negatively for any number of reasons. The leading cause of failed initiatives frequently hinges on misunderstanding and, at times, intentional dissemination of misinformation by opposing parties. Preconceived notions about people, organizations and products by key stakeholders and outside observers with the power of the pen, check book and motivated, mobilized constituencies also affect rates of success.

If ever you are told it’s far too early to begin advocating on behalf of your issue, product or organization, don’t believe it. It’s never too early to plant the seeds of success.

For the most part, standing outside the ring, hoping they go away only makes it worse until all likelihood of success is lost. Get in the game. Take strategic action to bolster your position. Create a steady drumbeat of on-strategy, targeted messages. Take your lumps along the way. Focus on the prize. And, win the fight by creating a groundswell of positive buzz and accurate information.

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