“The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level we were at when we created them.” ~Albert Einstein
In today’s world, to be successful, it’s obvious, in business, and in life you need to be comfortable with change. The reality is we change every moment as humans and as businesses, both on physical and metal levels. Let’s face it, as people and as businesses most of us are uncomfortable with change. It’s that icky feeling of the unknown. It’s rare that organizations can change as fast as necessary especially in this age of speedy technology advancement and more and more and MORE information flying at us. All of it can be VERY frustrating. To really succeed in today’s world we need to face the reality and understand that change is happening and speeding up in our worlds, be able to go with the flow of it, and just get comfortable with being uncomfortable. To get different results — change — we must do things differently.
First though we must understand not all change is drastic. Change is not uniform or black and white. Change can range from minor tweaking and adjustments to full out overhauls and revolution of your life or business. For example, I changed one word in a headline that skyrocketed enrollment into one of my courses 332% in one day. A new vitamin your take, a food you stop eating, a word you add to your vocabulary or a whole replacement of business systems and your products. Leaders who understand the graduations of change and use this understanding to implement change have an advantage as they try to adapt to the future and seek better lives for themselves and improve their businesses.
The Seven Levels of Change model created by Colonel Rolf Smith was an amazing treasure I stumbled upon for someone trying to make sense of change. This guy really knows his stuff and I have to admire his dedication to creativity and innovation when he came from the opposite background, a life in the U.S. Air Force an environment of a more logical nature. You know how I love and respect people that mix right and left brain thinking, cause it’s a concept I live by EVERYDAY in EVERYTHING I do. Smith considers change as seven increasing levels of difficulty – from easy to impossible. Each level more complex, and challenging than the one before it. Now, whenever I’m facing a problem, I’m thinking of changing something in my business, or just contemplating how a little tweak may improve my life, I think about the levels he has so brilliantly laid out.
LEVEL 1: Efficiency DOING things right
LEVEL 2: Effectiveness DOING the right things
LEVEL 3: Cutting Stopping DOING things that aren’t valuable to your priorities
LEVEL 4: Improving DOING things better
LEVEL 5: Copying DOING things other people are doing
LEVEL 6: Different DOING things no one else is doing
LEVEL 7: Impossible DOING things that can’t be done
The thought exercise, below, can be used as a quiet, written exercise that will stretch your thinking as it relates to change within your organization and/or life.
Read through each level thoroughly, answering the questions asked. The exercise can also be used for idea generation in a group, or independent analysis. Here are the seven …
[dt_accordion][dt_item title=”LEVEL 1 – Efficiency”]
Level 1: Efficiency. Doing things right – learning about the problem and asking, “Are things being
Changes at this level are largely personal adjustments to new standards and procedures; they incur low risk and require little effort.
[dt_item title=”LEVEL 2 – Effectiveness”]
Level 2: Effectiveness. Doing the right things – Really taking stock in everything you are currently doing, setting priorities, figuring out what REALLY matters to you, and focusing on what is really
important. Are things being done in the best way? Could another approach work better?
According to the Pareto Principle, 20 percent of all the things being done, usually
yield 80 percent of the payoff. To maximize effectiveness, shift energy to that 20 percent (the
right things), and apply Level 1 thinking to Level 2 priorities to do the right things right.
[dt_item title=”LEVEL 3 – Cutting”]
Level 3: Cutting. Doing away with wasteful activities and things – looking for tasks that can be eliminated to increase
productivity. Asking, “Why are we doing this?”
Level 3 focuses on eliminating waste. At this level,
we take the initiative to correct processes quickly, easily and inexpensively. Level 3 changes
involve low risk and low effort, but they can directly improve an organization’s efficiency and be
highly visible, both internally and externally.
[dt_item title=”LEVEL 4 – Improving”]
Level 4: Improving. Doing things better – striving for continual improvement. Asking, “If you
were in charge, what would you do or change to make things better?” Here we analyze an
organization’s core activities (the fruitful 20 percent remaining after Level 3) and figure out how
to improve them. Perhaps we find methods to speed up testing, move up deadlines, increase
function, or cut downtime. Work process redesigns are large-scale efforts to bring about Level 4
changes in combination with Level 3. Level 4 changes make things more effective, more efficient,
more productive, or more valuable.
[dt_item title=”LEVEL 5 – Copying”]
Level 5: Copying. Doing things other people are doing – thinking, reading, observing, noticing,
studying similar situations. Asking, “What are other companies, departments, and people doing?”
At this level you are moving from incremental thinking to fundamental change. Copying, learning
from others, and “reverse engineering” can dramatically boost innovation, quickly and more
cheaply than starting from scratch. Benchmarking how other companies operate (regardless of
their industry) and then enhancing their discoveries and achievements (using Level 4 change) is
the hallmark of the adaptable innovator.
It should be noted that many people are quite uncomfortable at this level, partly because they
are inwardly focused and therefore remain unaware that others are doing things worth copying.
In many organizations, a “Not Invented Here” mentality resists imitation, forcing continual
reinvention of the wheel. To be able to work at this level and beyond, you and/or your team need
to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
[dt_item title=”LEVEL 6 – Different”]
Level 6: Different. Doing things no one else is doing – generating novel ideas about the problem.
This involves considering things that seem unlikely to work and asking, “Why not?” Such
trailblazing and risk-taking can bring about genuinely new things, often by synthesizing seemingly
unconnected concepts, technologies, or components—or by totally shifting perspective about
possible uses of a product. In process-oriented operations, Level 6 at the extreme combines
Levels 3, 4, and 5—cutting, enhancing, copying, and adapting—into reengineering: revolutionizing
processes and procedures so they become unrecognizable.
[dt_item title=”LEVEL 7 – Impossible”]
Level 7: Impossible. Doing things that can’t be done – in the seventh and last step, the focus is
on changing paradigms. Looking at what is impossible and asking, “What can not be done?”
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if…” “Where will it take pure magic?” Level 7 is breakout thinking. Its
thinking which is forceful and which pushes through and emerges from restrictive mental
condition. Change at this level reflects the highest degree of imaginative thinking and is almost
invariably seen by others as a revolutionary or shocking departure from convention.
For a complete field guide, complete with tools and strategies, on how to make change happen within
your organization and/or life refer to Rolf’s book on the seven models of change.
“Don’t just stand there, do something” is a dangerous statement. We should replace it more often with:
“Before we start running, let’s spend a few minutes understanding what’s happening and what we should
be doing… and then lets run like hell in the right direction.” – Claude Legrand, co-creator and president of Ideaction
Change is inevitable in life. Those who develop the skills, will be successful at navigating change and will have an advantage with the ability to drive change instead of letting it drive them.
I would love to hear how this exercise on change helps you. Share your experiences in the comments below.