Glory Days

Jun 19, 2013 1 Comment by

bruce_springsteen-Born-in-the-usaI got some cool stuff for Fathers Day this past weekend, including an awesome pressure washer, a bobble head for my favorite football team (the Minnesota Vikings), and some great CD’s of classic rock music.

I uploaded all 4 discs of the “Essential Bruce Springsteen” collection to my iPod before doing the same with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s best-selling album of greatest hits. All this new/old music provided a nice soundtrack for my morning run on Sunday.   

Music + Lyrics: Regular readers of theBigRocks know I love music of all genres and enjoy the subtle art expressed within the lyrics of songs even more.

Often as I jog, I pay special attention to the meaning of the lyrics in a way that isn’t easy to do in other settings. I really like to focus on any insights the artist’s words may contain for us as Change Agents. OK, I’ll admit that might sound weird to some folks, but it’s what I do… :o)

Two lyrics within this weekend’s playlist caught my ear because of the divergent messages they send about the way people choose to approach change. I’ll address one song today and another in my next post.

Listen Up: The first example is found within the relatable lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”:

Speedball-pitcher

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“I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school.
He could throw that speedball by you.
Make you look like a fool, boy.


Saw him the other night at this roadside bar.
I was walking in, he was walking out.
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks,
but all he kept talking about was Glory days.

 Well they’ll pass you by…”

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A Familiar Story: I love the visual that The Boss paints of two old friends bumping into each other outside a bar and reminiscing about old times. His buddy goes on and on about the “glory days” when he could pump that baseball over the plate so fast that no one could hit it.

The tale springsteen-born-in-the-usacomes full circle as Springsteen sums up the chance meeting by reflecting on the limited value of living in the past:

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“I hope when I get older, I don’t sit around thinking about it. But I probably will…

…Time slips away. Leaves you with nothing Mister but boring stories of glory days…

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I noticed something within this clip that Change Agents should keep in mind when helping others through the process of adoption.

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Change Agent Tip #64:

Recognize the value and limitations of looking back even as we help people look forward.

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The Benefits of Looking Back: Knowing the past is critical to understanding the future. Most of us would agree that changes make more sense to us once we’re able to place then in context. It helps to know how the change “fits in” with our past and current world.

That’s why it’s so important for organizations to keep track of their own history and understand how a new change fits into it. When faced with change, unasked questions might pop into people’s minds like:

  •   Does this change represent a shift away from our previous strategies or are we “doubling down” on our familiar approach?
  •   How will the change impact our culture?
  •   Will this impact our team’s day-to-day priorities?
  •   Should this stuff make sense to me right away or are you asking me to think completely differently?
  •   …and so forth

Crack Out the Marshmallows: Some corporate culture experts stress the importance of maintaining the “campfire stories” of your organization to remind people of the basic pillars within your team’s culture. When campfirewe introduce a change, they suggest we express that change as being something different from the norm or a reinforcement of the stories people are already acquainted with.

In this process, the campfire stories provide the point of reference or “anchor” for comparison.  In Springsteen’s story, his reminiscing is harmless. In our real life stories of change adoption, campfire stories and cultural anchors can be helpful or not so helpful.

It’s Hard to Beat the “Good Old Days”: It can be risky to assume the good old days were all positive. Another even more practical reason to take a look back before looking forward is to make sure you’re ready to address concerns people may have based on their legitimate past experience with change. Whether their individual or collective experience was good or bad, past changes may have made impressions that your change now has to account for.

For example, without context it would be hard to answer stakeholder questions like:

“Didn’t we try something like this before?  I think that change failed…”

“I’ve been here a while and this new idea doesn’t seem to fit our company’s culture at all…”

bruce_springsteenStep Into That Pitch: Don’t wait for your stakeholders to “fill in the blanks” on questions like these. Take this risk on by brainstorming what forms of resistance you might get to your change based on past history.

Don’t be afraid to ask around the organization to find out what past change initiatives worked out well and what lessons can be learned from the changes that didn’t go so well.

Find out what critical success factors your change has in common with past successful and unsuccessful changes. Build your answers to potential stakeholder questions by considering lasting impressions of past changes and the facts of your new change.

A Final Word: There’s nothing wrong with looking back on our glory days. In fact, it’s important to use past success stories as a positive reference point for future changes. But I’d encourage you to also recognize the limits of “campfire stories” and use a few simple techniques like the ones I’ve described here to avoid repeating past mistakes.

In my next post, I’ll tackle a change-related classic from CCR…

-Steve

Questions for Chatter:

  1. Have you been part of an organization the “lived in the past” so much that it crippled their ability to make changes?
  2. What can go wrong if Change Agents jump into implementing change without considering past lessons learned?

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Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

About the author

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One Response to “Glory Days”

  1. Rock It: What Change Agents can learn from Creedence Clearwater Revival says:

    […] The story of that song reminded me of how beneficial it can be to help people place a new change into context by looking back, even as we help them look into the future.  Check out that article here… […]

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