Jack Welch quotes were the rage among hard-charging business leaders of the 1990\u2019s This is one of my favorites: "The difference between winning and losing is how the men and women of our company view change as it comes at them."\u00a0\nIn 1997, Welch was referring to preparing for and responding to the anticipated radical changes on the horizon. Digital transformation had begun, but no one called it that. It was mainly about faster desktops and this new thing called the internet.\nThe aspiration of every future-focused leader could be summarized with the words my wife shared upon our marriage: \u201cRandy, I\u2019ll never ask you to change. I do expect that you will continually adapt.\u201d\nA few of you are going to write that one down for use later.\nDoes the current environment make simply adapting to change a quaint relic from a more relaxed time? Or, does how you view change still determine the difference between winning and losing?\nThe answer is an unqualified \u201cIt depends.\u201d\nThe case for not waiting on change\nIt\u2019s easy to look back on the days when our cheese was being moved and our icebergs were melting with nostalgia. Change was constant but manageable. A big year was a few major projects implemented while doing your \u201creal job.\u201d\nToday, anticipating and adapting to change are the minimum expectations. Technology powers every aspect of the business. Waiting for change is now guarantees playing catch up with your competitor.\nThe best leaders don\u2019t wait for change. They pursue it. Active innovation and improvement are the difference between excellence and irrelevance.\nThe mentality that winning and losing is about pursuing rather than merely adapting to change should be second nature at this point. Even Welch believed that simply adapting to change wasn\u2019t enough back in 1997. The data shows that leaders are still waiting rather than taking the proactive approach of pursuit.\nThe 2018 Artificial Intelligence Technology Business Guide published by Globant shows that despite all the hype around Artificial Intelligence, less than half of CEOs are actually involved in conversations about how to use it. More important, only 22% of CIOs and 24% of CTOs are involved in those conversations.\nLikewise, another 2018 Globant study reports that just 31% of senior-level staff uses voice-activated technology at work even though 45% of them do so in their personal lives. Voice-activated tech has completely transformed the customer experience. Doesn\u2019t it make sense that companies would pursue this change to power the internal experience, too?\nLouis Hernandez, CEO of the private equity firm Black Dragon Capital, explained to me that it is easy for companies and even entire industries to equate their current value to their past success. As he says, \u201cThe massive availability of information and choice create higher expectations for continuously pursuing change.\u201d\nOkay, that sounds great, but how?\nThis is a good time to mention that I have no financial relationship with either Black Dragon Capital or the company Hernandez led to a turnaround and resurgence, Avid Technology.\nThe biggest barrier to the active pursuit of change, according to Hernandez, is capturing the hearts and minds of employees. \u00a0To be successful, you have to convince them that their \u201cvalue isn\u2019t based on their heritage.\u201d\nCiting his experience at Avid, Hernandez explained that the company\u2019s long-term success with legacy products resulted in devoting an inordinate amount of resources to products that were the least relevant to its customers.\nCIOs and CTOs take the same approach with internal processes. Are you, for instance, continuing to support legacy email, CRM, or collaboration tools that require more work than they are worth for the benefit received?\u00a0\nFor Hernandez, the solution was to focus the energy outward. Avid talked with 200 of its largest clients to determine how their current products alleviated a pain point or provided a competitive advantage.\nThis exercise isn\u2019t for the faint of heart. You are likely to find that your internal and external customers have a pain point that your traditional ways of operating don\u2019t alleviate. It will feel like, as Hernandez points out, that they want a different type of transportation when you thought they simply needed better spark plugs to power their existing vehicle.\nA marketing company\u2019s reputation and livelihood depends on bringing new solutions to clients and not allowing their ideas to become stale or outdated.\nIn many ways, internal technology operations are no different. Your internal clients are looking for ways to make their jobs faster, better, cheaper, and\/or friendlier. You become their strategic partner when you pursue change in the form of new solutions rather than waiting to adapt.\nCompleteSpectrum, another company with which I have no financial connection, provides branding and marketing services to private equity portfolio companies. I spoke with Matt Stein, the company\u2019s CMO, about how he keeps his team pursuing change.\nStein told me that he has worked to make pursuing change part of the company\u2019s DNA. \u201cYou have to make this a core part of your company\u2019s habits, just as you might do with providing employee feedback, regular team meetings, or anything else that is important to you.\u201d\nStein does this by formally carving out time for key staff to explore what\u2019s new and work through the benefits it can bring, as well as the cost equations that come with it.\n\u201cEssentially, you have to place time to pursue change on the schedule as a primary value driver,\u201d says Stein.\nThis is where your leadership comes in. Your partners in the business\u2014and the employees on your team\u2014are looking for you to lead them to the next change that makes success easier. They need your courage to protect the space required to proactively pursue change.\nThe case for resisting change\nThe examples of companies waiting too long to change are endless. Blockbuster believed it didn\u2019t need to move quicker toward offering DVDs by mail. Xerox didn\u2019t change quickly enough to overcome the threat posed by Canon copiers. Motorola didn\u2019t respond to Nokia\u2019s advances in the mobile phone market until it was too late to catch up.\nThe list of failed change is equally impressive. Those stories, however, don\u2019t readily support the current narrative that new ideas should be pursued in the name of innovation.\nSteve Jobs once said, \u201cDeciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.\u201d\nEven Jobs didn\u2019t get it right all of the time. Does anyone remember the Apple Newton?\nTherein lies the problem. For every Google Maps that creates positive change there is a Google Lively that should have never been pursued.\nYes, there are times when a change is simply ahead of its time or provides the foundation for something else. The Segway didn\u2019t revolutionize personal travel as predicted, but the technology has made its way into some amazing upgrades for wheel chairs.\nWe have reached the point where the volume and velocity of new possibilities makes resisting\u2014or at least temporarily ignoring\u2014change a viable option. I asked Louis Hernandez and Matt Stein for their ideas on deciding when a potential change should be ignored. \u00a0They shared three questions that will help you decide.\n1. Does the change move you toward your current strategic goals?\nStein pointed out that it is easy to be enamored by a new idea and lose sight of the size and impact of a change.\n\u201cToo many companies get excited about, pay for, implement, or even attempt to utilize new technology without understanding how it truly moves the needle on their strategic goals,\u201d says Stein. \u201cIt\u2019s not every day that new marketing technology, for instance, comes along that\u2019s a game changer. Most new technology products are iterative versions of the same tried and true solutions.\u201d\nThere is an expense of time, resources, and focus for even the smallest changes.\u00a0 When you consider the total cost of a change, there are times when it makes business sense to say no.\nYour IT governance process helps make decisions on the bigger and\/or most visible changes. It is time to seek a greater level of strategic alignment for projects that typically don\u2019t require governance approval, too. That means teaching and empowering your staff to say no to change when appropriate. Opportunity is everywhere at every level of the organization. Even a change that appears inconsequential requires resources that might be best used elsewhere.\n2. Does the change solve an important problem for your customer?\nOn the surface, this is an extension of the previous point. You have to assume that your customer believes that a request is important at the time it is made. The decision then is based on who decides the definition of \u201cimportant.\u201d That\u2019s where you have to be willing to listen, learn, and when necessary, say no to change that doesn\u2019t move the organization forward.\nHernandez takes this question a step further. He believes that IT leaders should be proactive in understanding the business\u2014Including its goals and challenges\u2014and bringing solutions forward for consideration.\n3. Is the change consistent with your guiding principles and values?\nFacebook has been plagued with mishandled privacy issues for months. In December 2018, the company was found to be granting user-data access to companies such as Microsoft, Spotify, and Netflix.\nThis makes perfect sense from a purely financial perspective, and it is just one more action that creates mistrust and suspicion.\nA solution to missteps like this, according to Hernandez, is to have a clear set of guidelines and values that provide the boundaries for what is and isn\u2019t acceptable change.\u00a0\nThere are clear cut rules that provide obvious answers, and there are those changes that fall somewhere in the middle. He advocates for supporting the rules with guide posts that enable staff to surface difficult decisions for further analysis and discussion.\nChange continues to be a priority for every future-focused leader. It\u2019s just that change has changed in the 22 years since Jack Welch defined it as the key to winning and losing in the marketplace.\u00a0 Adapting and anticipating are the minimum. Going forward you must consider two additional options when looking at change\u2014pursuing and ignoring.