Just Do It

“Just Do IT” is one of the most successful and recognizable marketing slogans in the history of modern business. The advertising agency of Wieden & Kennedy created the slogan for the Nike Corporation in the late 1980’s. The brand awareness it generated and the market share increase it drove for the organization (138% increase to 43% of the total market in ten years time) is simply amazing.
So what does one of the most successful advertising slogans in global business have to do with change management? More than you might think…
In Peter Block’s best selling book Stewardship (Block, P. (1993). Stewardship. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers), Mr. Block outlines the cornerstones of traditional organizations:

  • Control,
  • Consistency, and
  • Predictability

As Block articulates, in this type of organization authority is not to be questioned and compliance is both expected and rewarded. If not specifically outlined, customer focus is an afterthought. When driving change of any kind, these organizations will simply ask their people to “Just Do It”…
As hospitals and health systems have evolved to meet the ever-escalating needs of an aging population, a scare workforce, constrained capital markets, and enhanced transparency requirements they no longer resemble a traditional organizations. Improvement projects across the industry targeted at these challenging issues have driven a new organizational value system as described by Jeffrey Hiatt and Tim Creasey in their landmark book on change management (Hiatt, J and Creasey, T. (2003). Change Management: The People Side of Change. Loveland, CO: Prosci). These new values are:

  • Empowerment,
  • Accountability, and
  • Continuous Improvement

This new value system has lead to powerful gains in employee engagement and patient focus. These same employees are now rewarded for being responsive to our patients and accountable for our results (both clinically and financially). Now when these employees are presented with any type of change initiative, their response has shifted from “Yes” to “Why.” Long gone are the days of Just Do It…

So what does this mean to a change leader?

Even with the evolution of the workforce, the implementation of methods such as Six Sigma, or metrics based incentive compensation the “Just Do It” Approach is alive and well in the majority of today’s largest and most prestigious organizations. Well-intentioned leaders pay a disproportionate amount of attention to the “hard stuff”: budgets, milestones, timelines and issues. In turn, they pay limited attention to the people element of the initiatives they charter, telling their employees to “Just Do It” in a variety of subliminal or less provocative ways. In light of that, it’s no wonder that research for the past 20 years continues to demonstrate that only 3 in 10 of change initiatives of any kind meet their objectives.

The Essential Piece of any change is the people that will enable the realization of any change-derived benefits. In the age of an empowered workforce, a change leader must go beyond managing the tactics of change management to meeting the individual transitional needs of those within the organization. Ensuring they understand the case for change and buy in to the course designed for the organization.
Would you like to speak to someone about how to overcome the Just Do It approach? Please feel free to contact me at