Embracing Change

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Leonard Isabelle
  • Commander, Michigan Air National Guard
Our ability to handle change, both as individuals and as an organization is a major reason we are the premier military in the world. When faced with uncertainties on the battlefield or in the air, U.S.military forces adapt, overcome and are ultimately successful because we welcome change and harness it to our advantage.

Much of the uncertainty which we have been faced with recently is not generated by our adversaries. Instead, shrinking defense budgets and questions regarding the relative roles of active duty, National Guard and Reserve forces cause us to question what our military will look like in the future.

At a recent conference which I attended, there was a discussion on how to minimize the undesired effects of this uncertainty and change on our members and organization. There were many ideas presented but one in particular resonated with me. The basic premise is that most of us are resistant to change because we assume that it's negative. This belief
ignores the fact that in many cases, there are significant advantages in overcoming organizational inertia and accepting and embracing a specific change. In short, our attitude towards change, whether planned or unplanned, is what ultimately determines how successful we are.

So, what can we do to accept change and be successful in a fluid environment? First, set the proper expectation or attitude regarding the proposed changes. In other words, have an open mind and look at the proposed changes as opportunities instead of threats. Don't assume that you or the organization will be adversely impacted. Try to identify the positive outcomes that are possible and communicate them to your colleagues. Have an active and transparent dialogue about how the proposed changes will affect the organization and plan for them. A positive mindset is the first step in conquering change.

Secondly, determine what you need to do to be successful. Many times, we are guilty of being indecisive and stagnant because of the mere possibility of change in the future. Instead, work on the facets of your personal or organizational readiness that are independent of any changes. Determine what you can control and focus your efforts on those areas. Get back to basics with your service Core Values. Integrity, Service, and Excellence are always useful reminders about what is important to concentrate on. Build a strong team that does the right things in the proper way. Develop a personal or organizational strategic plan. In short, craft a flexible and agile team that will be ready for the challenges of the future.

Finally, accept that change is an inevitable and required aspect of making an already outstanding organization even better. Where would we be as a military if we employed tactics and procedures from the "old days" without looking for a better way? Would we rather be Google or CompuServe? Apple or Blackberry? How did those great companies get to where they are? The National Guard's ability to innovate is a force multiplier. We have always accomplished more with less. We are the oldest military organization in the United States. Our ability to provide more national defense value compared to active duty forces is unmatched. We aren't going anywhere!