10 Questions every change agent must answer

You can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past. That’s why the work of leadership is the work of change— whether you’re the CEO, the leader of a business unit or a project manager with a small team. Then, here are ten questions every change agent must answer.

Do you see opportunities the competition doesn’t see?

The most successful companies don’t just outcompete their rivals. They redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world of “me too” thinking. Originality matters.

Do you have new ideas about where to look for new ideas?

One way to look at problems, as if you’re seeing them for the first time, is to look at a wide array of fields for ideas that have been working for a long time. Ideas that are routine in one industry can be revolutionary when they migrate to another industry.

Are you the most of anything?

You can’t be “pretty good” at everything anymore. You have to be the most of something: the most affordable, the most elegant, the most colorful. Today, the middle of the road is the road to ruin. What are you the most of?

If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why?

I first heard this question from advertising legend, Roy Spence, who says he got it from Jim Collins of Good to Great fame. Whatever the original source, the question is as profound as it is simple and worth taking seriously as a guide to what really matters.

Have you figured out how your organization’s history can help to shape its future?

The most creative leaders don’t disavow the past. They rediscover and reinterpret what’s come before as a way to develop a line of sight into what comes next—to build on past success, even as they build out a new point of view on the future.

Do you work as distinctively as you hope to compete?

You can’t create something special and distinctive in the marketplace unless you also create something special and distinctive in the workplace. Changing culture is an essential part of changing strategy.

Are you getting the best contributions from the most people?

It may be lonely at the top, but change is not a game best played by loners. Innovation and creativity are everyone’s business. The best change leaders have enough ambition to address tough problems, and enough humility to know they don’t have all the answers.

Are you as memorable as you are efficient?

More than ever, in a world being transformed by technology, customers and colleagues also crave a deeper sense of humanity. Therefore, the goal of change can’t just to become more efficient. It is to unleash behaviors and experiences that are memorable for everyone who encounters them.

Are you consistent in your commitment to change?

Pundits love to excoriate companies because they don’t have the guts to change. In fact, the problem with many organizations is that all they do is change. They lurch from one consulting firm to the next, from the most recent management fad to the newest. If, as a leader, you want to make deep-seated change, then your priorities have to stay consistent.

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

In a world that never stops changing, great leaders can never stop learning. How do you push yourself as an individual to keep growing and evolving — so that your company or team can do the same?

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About the Author

Bill Taylor is the co-founder of Fast Company and most recently the author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways.