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Change the rules

The Lime Group | Articles

Anna Denton

If you want to enact change in your organization, first look at the rules. Is your system set up to reward behaviors that are not aligned with corporate goals? For example, does your organization says it values teamwork, but annual reviews only display metrics for individual effort? Or, your organization espouses a focus on long-term growth, yet rewards quarterly earnings?

At Lime, we’ve seen how misalignment between goals and rewards is an indicator that a system needs to be reviewed and its rules analyzed.

Richard Tafel, founder of Log Cabin Republicans and The Public Squared says, “until we change the rules, we don’t really change the system”. While Tafel works in government, “the rules of changing systems are global, because they’re really about people and how you change people, and you can apply the same principles around the world.”

Below, his five steps for changing the system – from within:

  1. Find a focus. The first question to ask is, what one rule could we change that would change the whole system?
  2. Embrace the status quo. It’s a paradox, but “insider” status and connections will help you get things done.
  3. Ask the system how it can be changed. Don’t be afraid to go directly to the decision-makers. “Very often, they give me a strategy I would have never come up with in my most wild fantasies. Talk to these people and they can do it.” Get their buy-in in order to move forward effectively.
  4. Appeal to the “better angels” of those in power. Appeal to their sense of morality. “Every success that I’ve had in changing a system is at some point I’ve said to somebody look, you know this is the right thing to do and this is why you’re really here and could you help me. It’s not going to help you politically, it’s not going to get you any votes, it’s not going to get you any money, but you as a person, will you help me in changing this thing. And invariably people really rise up to do that.”
  5. Be tenacious. It’s the most important thing you can do. Get an idea, figure out your strategy, and hold on to your vision.

Change can be intimidating, but with the right focus, the right people and a healthy dose of tenacity, even system-wide change is possible.