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On Change: Don’t Be a Turkey

By David Pennino |
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After many years in professional services, technology, and business process outsourcing, one phrase always comes back to me at the beginning of any new engagement: “Turkeys don’t vote for Thanksgiving.” Sure, it’s a bit of dark humor, but it highlights the biggest barrier to progress in business there is: fear of change. Change is to many executives as Thanksgiving is to the unlucky birds.

I see resistance to change across all industries and levels of business, and it teaches me that there’s always at least one turkey in any company. Some are aggressively opposed to change, while others are skeptical or ignorant, turning a blind eye to facts. I know manager turkeys, director turkeys, CFO turkeys. Change is hard at all levels and often becomes more difficult to accept with tenure.

My clients are not alone. I, too, have shown turkey-like symptoms. As a professional services CEO who aspires to provide best-of-market governance to our clients, my team recently engaged a top-tier consulting firm to audit our governance, reporting, and account management practices. And what they found was not the easiest pill to swallow.

I bristled, strutted, and clucked at the feedback. I resentfully rejected it at first. They graded our homework and it felt bad. But they were right. Certain things needed to change if we were to remain best-in-class.

Not everyone who’s hesitant to embrace change is wrong. Companies that constantly receive un-actionable counsel, or are suffering from consultant fatigue, often develop turkey tendencies that are easy to justify, especially when there is no consultant accountability or clear way to execute the suggested strategies for improvement. Frequently, the person who actually has to do the work to make the necessary changes happen is given blueprints that bear no relation to the real world and come with no additional, or sometimes even reduced, resources.  And with senior leadership already excited and planning the champagne celebration, it’s no wonder the feathers fly.

However, the turkey’s instincts too often impede progress. Today, companies are forced to do more with less. Yet the vocabulary of turkeys persists: can’t, shouldn’t, won’t, don’t, couldn’t. Considering and enacting change is a necessary part of moving forward and growing an efficient and sustainable business, not something to fear. By embracing a simple phrase, “Don’t be a turkey: how might we,” everyone in the company can help drive change and be part of the solution.

This credo fuels me both as a turkey in recovery and in my job as a turkey spotter. And it can help business leaders ensure that they are provided with actionable advice with the resources and support necessary to achieve the promised results. That’s important because, ultimately, it’s everyone’s neck.

David Pennino is President and CEO of LogicSource

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