congressional sealOK. So they’re not really managing change on Capitol Hill. They’re resisting change, hard, on both sides of the aisle.

Therein lies the lesson.

In order for any organization, from the corner grocery to the US Congress, to successfully transform itself to meet a changing environment, there are a few don’ts. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Don’t enter the process with a list of sacred cows. That might seem like a no-brainer, but think about every negotiation you’ve been privy to. From the NBA’s failure to have a 2011-2012 season to Congress’ failure to have a meaningful budget discussion, sacred cows – also known variously as “deal breakers” or “temper tantrums” – doom the process from the outset.
  2. Don’t forget why you’re there. You’re not there to score points, to prove you’re right, or to prove the other side’s wrong. You’re there – all of you, everyone – to move a culture forward. That means that everyone has to be willing to actually move. Which  means you can’t stand in the way just because you’re not running the game.
  3. Don’t fail to listen to the outliers. Are there any visionaries at your table? Particularly the kind that are looking so hard down the road that they don’t get caught up in turf fights? Ask them what they’re seeing in the process, and where they see opportunities to break stalemates. Be aware that these are often people who don’t speak up first. Or even second. So ask, and then listen.
  4. Don’t make it a fight. If the discussion gets heated, take a break. If it gets heated every single time there’s a meeting, identify the flamethrowers and deny them fuel. Take away their sacred cows, remind them of their stake in making actual progress. Or fire them. If they’re the CEO … quit.

The saddest thing about the current lack of change leadership in Washington is that the entire crew has forgotten that, in their zeal to hew to their party’s platform, they’re trampling the customers: us. They’re not listening to the frustration of their market – taxpayers – and making meaningful change that will move the organization forward to at least a shot at what might pass for a balanced budget.

So if you’re looking to drive meaningful change in your organization, here’s the last and biggest don’t: don’t act like the jerk-tards on Capitol Hill.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it …


Change management lessons from Congress. Who knew?