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In biochemistry, the term apoptosis refers to pre-programmed cell death, in which a cell is destroyed by the body, as planned after a certain predictable lifespan. The entire cell, in this case, will no longer exist and a new one will replace it. It is like buying a new car instead of fixing the broken parts. Conversely, autophagy is fixing the broken parts. Autophagy is a cellular pruning of the membranes, organelles or debris that are recycled by the body to make the whole cell stronger with new pieces.
Leaders of any sort, have a regular duty to make this same decision: apoptosis or autophagy. When projects, systems, succession plans, coaching models, customer service protocols or procedures need to be modified, there is pain in the transition. This is the natural adaptation of any business to maintain sustainability and preserve its relevance in a serving society. During that pain, managers must know when to either resist the temptation to abandon the change entirely or rethink the piece not working.
Often, the easier approach is to abandon the challenge and revert back to the old system. When customers or staff are upset, the immediate thought is to go back to the previous ways, forgetting our reasons for needed the change and all the benefit it brings.
The answer here, is to adopt a mentality that sees challenge as not ‘all or nothing’. Perhaps there is a way to investigate the individual pieces of the challenge and recycle what is painful, while preserving the core. This is a more difficult mentality as it requires enduring pain and actively working with the people and events protesting.
How can autophagy be made easier?
By fully understanding why the change must occur
By sketching out the project’s most likely hurdles
By anticipating the people most likely to cause friction
By running a pilot: getting others to give opinion before it really matters
The answer to a flat tire is not always a new car.
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