Speaker Paul Ryan’s healthcare bill crashed and burned last week. There is more to the story than the simple failure to pass a bill in the house – where the Republicans hold a majority 237 seats – yet needed only 217 votes to pass the bill.
The GOP spent more than 6-years trying to repeal the law – voting over 50 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yes folks, the legislation is not named Obamacare. But the republicans strategically branded the ACA as Obamacare so well that 1/3 of Americans had no idea that Obamacare and the ACA were the same thing. Regardless, they had more than 6 years to come up with their preferred option to repeal and replace the legislation.
They failed. Miserably.
Based on their rhetoric I was under the impression that – should the opportunity arise – the GOP had what they thought to be a better solution ready to implement.
Turns out…they got nothing!
After over 6-years of trying to repeal – and campaigning on repealing and replacing the ACA during the 2016 election – the big moment arrived for the GOP.
They failed. Miserably.
The failure to pass viable legislation to repeal and replace the ACA goes deeper than politics. Their failure shows how poor leadership, the inability to change, and the power of “no” alone have prohibited them from governing in a way that creates real change – some would say they haven’t governed much at all.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) resigned from the House Freedom Caucus “in order to deliver on the conservative agenda we have promised the American people for eight years.” He added “Saying no is easy, leading is hard.”
Most great leaders would say – duh!
Being a leader is hard. So is managing change. Paul Ryan found this out the hard way…
“We were a 10-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do,” Ryan said. “You just had to be against it. Now, in three months’ time, we tried to go to a governing party where we actually had to get 216 people to agree with each other on how we do things.”
I agree with Paul Ryan on his little nugget of awareness – the prior strategy of Congress to be the party of opposition is a failing strategy now that they actually have to be the party of governing.
New initiatives, new technology, new processes and procedures, leadership changes – all require new behaviors and ways of doing things – change.
Did you notice the word “behavior?” Behaviors are what inhibit or promote change. Behaviors are what can make change a failure or a success.
Transformational change – especially in politics where there are so many conflicting beliefs and opinions – requires a shift in mindset and behavior. Paul Ryan and I also agree – change isn’t easy, it doesn’t happen without a clear strategy and concerted effort, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Although organizational change is inevitable – even in Congress – to be successful requires facing and addressing some hard truths.
Here are 10 truths Congress (and you) need to face to lead change successfully:
Change is hard
Anyone who tells themselves change is easy has never lived through it or is choosing to pull the wool over their eyes. Change deals with transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state – the unknown. The unknown makes most people a bit anxious. This is normal – though not an easy process for people to go through. It’s important to go into a change effort with realistic expectations – change will be hard for people both professionally and personally.
People will need ongoing support
Leadership needs to communicate the change and the ways in which they will support those impacted – both peers and external stakeholders. If you expect people to help support the change and to commit to the new ways, you need to explain the “why” and the “how.” Providing ongoing support is hard. People need to understand how they will be impacted and what contributions they are making toward creating a better future – and why. You need to dispel fears and the rumor mill. They need to know leadership will support them in the process of adapting and acclimating to a new world.
The best laid plans
Of course, a strong change management plan is needed – but a plan is just shelf ware without any action. ACTION is imperative. Per the GOP Congress, almost a decade of simply opposing everything but presenting no viable solutions or legislation of your own – is not action. Even if you have great plans, they alone are not enough. You must account for governance, communications, training, and ongoing support. The plan needs to be realistic, actionable, and customizable. The plan also needs to be implemented by those skilled in change management in collaboration with trusted stakeholders. More importantly – the plan the leaders and stakeholders act on must remain agile and flexible. Course correction is often needed – remaining flexible during change is a key to successful change management.
Leader does not equal change agent
Just because you’re in a leadership role – like Ryan or Trump – doesn’t make you a good change agent. Yes, leadership needs to be involved – trusted leadership, leadership with the desire and time to commit to success, leadership open to learning additional skills, leadership who can check ego, and leadership who can show compassion and patience. Title and position alone shouldn’t guarantee a seat at the change management table.
Resistance will happen
Many people will resist change. They are inherently change adverse. Much of government is notoriously slow to adapt to change. Even those of us who don’t fear change, or are paid to lead it, don’t always like change. Resistance is natural. If you really want your change to be a success, then you must find a way to engage the resisters and harness their energy in a positive way. You can’t expect resistance not to happen, like in the case of the Freedom Caucus, and you can’t ignore it when it does. The concerns of these people, or small groups, must be addressed.
Don’t be afraid of the muck
Change is dirty, it’s messy, and the road can be bumpy. Embrace the muck. Prepare for time in the Neutral Zone. Roll up your sleeves. You’ll hit roadblocks, you’ll hit hurdles…ram through them and jump over them. Perseverance and persistence are imperative to success.
Change takes time
Many may feel that we had 8 years of pretty rapid political and societal change – some are grateful that others resist. Like Kotter says, ‘quick wins.’ Some change can happen faster than others – but almost no change can be immediate. However, change overall, particularly deep culture change or transformational change, can’t happen overnight. The decree of the President or Speaker or the stroke of a pen on legislation isn’t what makes change stick. You need to set realistic expectations regarding the timing of completion and realistic expectations regarding milestones and measurements of success. And whatever you do – course correct if needed but don’t give up midway through the process!
You are what you do
Leaders and change agents must embody the values and changes they want stakeholder groups to adopt. Being a leader doesn’t exempt you from having to deal with the change yourself – personally and professionally. Per healthcare for example, this is why many felt that Congress should also have to obtain healthcare coverage under the law they were proposing. It’s necessary that leadership serves as role models. Hypocrisy doesn’t sell! Mean what you say and do what you mean. They are watching. So be a role model, embrace change, exemplify the best of what the change is all about, lead by example.
Constituents need to know
If you fail to communicate the impacts of the change to stakeholders they’re likely to think you’re hiding something. That means you lose support. I’m not saying your constituents or customers need to know all the details, but the truth is, they do need to know the changes you’re making – and how those changes will impact them. If you think you are changing to better serve them then why shouldn’t they be informed? They should – or at least their opinions and concerns – be heard and addressed. Involving stakeholders and communicating with them throughout the change process only serves to increase buy-in and engagement for change.
If at first you don’t succeed
Most people don’t like to hear this – but it’s the truth –change may not stick the first time. Yes, I know, you spent all that time and effort and money. But don’t be afraid to adapt or tweak your process, your framework, or the players involved. Every organization is different, every culture is different, and change management approaches should be flexible and adapted to best suit the organization and type of change. If things don’t go as planned – discuss and analyze- take a hard look at what went wrong and how. Don’t force the same process again and expect a different result. Don’t toss things aside and just move on. Develop lessons learned and saddle up and keep on riding the change journey.
The GOP leadership needs to know that change does NOT happen overnight. Change does not happen because someone says so. Change does not occur simply by checking off boxes. To manage change successfully requires acknowledging some hard truths. Change itself is a process – managing it, leading it, achieving it is also a process. You don’t just wave a magic wand – or have an election where your party obtains majority control overnight – and TADA! POOF! Positive change has occurred! It happens because committed people take the time and effort to do the hard work – personally and organizationally – needed for success. They learn and exhibit new behaviors that create and support positive change.
Seems the GOP is learning this the hard way.
Assuming the GOP is interested in getting help to change – and is truly interested in leading – contact me. I’ll share some resources with you as your success means my success, too.
About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – a Leadership Effectiveness & Change Management firm. He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business.
Email | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog | Facebook