Regardless of one’s personal ideology, many would agree that political campaigns typically tout both a need and plan for change. Our most recent presidential campaign heavily emphasized hope and change, but I would submit hope was 90% of the message; hope for a better economy, for a more inclusive nation, to overcome racial barriers and create a historical milestone we can all be proud of.

The challenge of any campaign is the effort that causes change to happen. As much as we talk about it and aspire to change a nation, organization, team or even an individual, change is messy. Change is committees, approval processes, long hours and what often seems to be endless debate. In politics, it is partisanship; in our organization, it’s compromise. Any way you look at it, it’s difficult and requires steadfast leadership that is unwavering in the face of those who find it unpopular.

I often meet senior executives who have a vision for fundamentally changing the relationship-development behaviors of their organization. After all, that’s where the real impact or change they seek will come from – change in behavior by an individual, a team, or the entire organization. When we first meet and begin to work together, I see a commitment to and a passion for change. They campaign within the organization, amongst the senior leadership team, internal stakeholders and external board members. They map out a path to get there and commit to “doing whatever it takes;” does that sound familiar?

Then the reality settles in of governing for change. The change leader receives pushback from the status quo opposition. There are budgetary concerns of the financial stewards, and operational resistance from the bowels of the organization, claiming they’ve “never done this or that before.” Change leaders get compliance guidelines, human resource evaluation reports, and calls from the inevitable board member who simply “doesn’t get” what the senior leader is trying to accomplish. Dissent creeps in and the leader begins to lose strategic relationship management effectiveness in keeping that vision of change on track.

The leader backtracks to redefine the truly visionary change once aspired to, to one of incremental improvements over a longer period of time. The vision of doing things differently – real change – becomes one of doing things better – incrementalism. The accelerated time to market becomes “let’s take it slower” and “not ruffle any feathers.”

There have been countless books written on change, and on making change work or last. Many are valid, but many also miss pointing out a few critical factors that affect envisioning a truly changed environment and governing change efforts: strategic relationships, influencer marketing, and reputation tentacles on the frontline of where change must take place.

Change isn’t easy or often fun. Changing behavior, relationship-development behaviors in particular, requires a campaign for change and steadfast governance of mindset, toolset and roadmap.

To learn more, please join us online for an upcoming webinar on Relationship Economics @ Work, or in person at the 2011 Customer Economics Retreat.

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