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Long hours, bad cubicles, tedious work, toxic culture — there are a lot of reasons why people would want to make a change within their organization. Change can be something as small as getting the office supplies you need or as big as revamping the corporate culture and brand, but no matter the size, change can have a big impact on the morale, growth, and revenue of a company. Change is especially important as we march towards the future of work, as the rate of change is sure to speed up and organizations that are stuck in their ways will likely be left in the dust. But how can you really drive change within your organization that will last and keep your company at the forefront?

Most people automatically think that it’s the people that make the change, and that to drive real change you need better leaders and managers. But that isn’t always the case. In fact, most people fail to realize that the system you build is more powerful than the people in the system. If your organization is a terrible place to work and you bring in a new manager to make everything better, you’ll often find that the new leader doesn’t make any changes and could actually make things worse. Even the best intentioned manager is often limited in what he or she can do by the systems that are already in place. A manager who wants to open up communication in an organization can’t do much no matter how grand their plans if they are locked into the organization’s existing hierarchal system. Just look at how the U.S. presidency works — the president can’t do whatever he wants because there are limits built into the system. The same principle is true within organizations and impacts change both big and small.

Much more than people, systems are what actually create change. If you want change within your organization, you have to revise the system. Changing the system may seem like a daunting task, and that’s because it can be. However, updating the system to something that is more open to change is worth the effort and can set your company up for success. Taking the time to change the system makes your company more agile and makes it easier for change to happen quickly and efficiently that reflects what employees and customers want. Instead of disrupting the entire organization, change within a good system is seamless and keeps the company ahead of the competition.

To first drive change, look at the system that is currently in place and figure out how to change it. What practices are broken? What is limiting people from doing what they really want? Where are the roadblocks for new ideas? It could be the organizational structure of how employees report to management, it could be the corporate culture that follows strict traditions, it could be attitude executives have to new technology, or any other number of bad practices. Systems come in a number of forms and can be small and large. Look at how work gets done in your organization and find ways to update and streamline the process.

This is all to say that people aren’t important in driving change. Without bold, visionary people in leadership positions, change would never get started in the first place. These people need to take a stand to let others know that changing the strategy and tactics of the organization won’t last. They need to be the ones to change the very system and workplace practices the organization uses.

To drive real change, you have to start by rebuilding and rethinking the system.

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