5 Reasons New Business Change is Hard, And How to Avoid The Common Traps

Real change requires real effort
by Todd Knutson


A recent Harvard Business School article addressed why it's so hard to change, which is a good follow up to my last post on the need for constant change and improvement in ad agency new business.

The authors of the article, Marshall Goldsmith and Dr. Kelly Goldsmith, outline five reasons why change is difficult. What follows is their research in their words, to a great extent, though I've reduced the amount of copy and made a number of edits.

1. Ownership. For your effort to change to have a chance of success, you have to take personal ownership and have the internal belief that "This will work if, and only if, I make it work. I am going to make this work."

2. Time.  Most of us set goals and then underestimate the time needed to attain them. We have to learn to be realistic about the time we need to change habits. Those that have taken years to develop won't go away in a week. Set time expectations that are 50% to 100% longer than you think you'll need to see results — then add a little more.

3. Difficulty. Not only does it take longer to achieve our goals than we think it will, but it also requires more hard work than we anticipate. It's important to accept the fact that real change requires real work. Plan for change to be more difficult than you think it should to help prevent the disappointment that can occur when challenges arise later.

4. Distractions. We have a tendency to underestimate the distractions and competing goals that will invariably appear. Plan for distractions in advance. Assume that crazy is the new normal. You'll probably be close to the reality that awaits.

5. Maintenance. Once you've put in the effort needed to achieve a goal, it can be tough to face the reality of what's needed to maintain the new status quo. If you don't, however, all your effort will be in vain.

Real change requires real effort. The "quick fix" is seldom a meaningful one. Distractions and things that compete for your attention are going to crop up — frequently.


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