“Grandpa, what was it like in the days before Level 3?”
“Well, sonny, back in those days, we had to actually push buttons to dial a phone number. We surfed the internet on 14.4 modems. And there was no such thing as a venti coffee.”
“Oh, Grandpa! How did you even survive?”
OK, well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but for me, thinking back just 10 years in telecom can sometimes feel like the Dark Ages. No, Level 3 can’t take credit for all the technological advances that have occurred in that time, but with roughly 11,000 smart people all over the globe, it definitely feels like we’re poised to impact the next 10 years of innovation –and beyond.
But as excited as I am about all the opportunity that lies ahead – not just for Level 3, but for people who use telecommunications services all over the world every day – I’m also keenly aware that a lot of change comes along with it.
Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up – James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
Change is hard. Literally at a cellular level, we humans are hard-wired to protect the status quo. Biologists call it homeostasis – the tendency of a system or organism to maintain internal stability. I call it the Great Innovation Killer, in my most melodramatic moments. If the new Level 3 is going to deliver the next venti coffee of telecom, we need all 11,000 humans in the company – well, most of them, anyway – to be masters at leading, managing and reacting to change.
To make that happen, some colleagues and I have launched the Change Acceleration Movement at Level 3. This movement focuses on equipping our employees with a mindset, a method and a toolkit for managing the notoriously tricky human aspects of change.
One of the key elements, though, and perhaps the one I’m most excited about, is the Change Agent Network. By the end of 2014, this will be a global, cross-functional network of nearly 2,000 employees who are formally trained to manage the people side of change, and who then collaborate and share best practices while spreading their new capabilities throughout the company while applying them to their work.
If you want to truly understand something, try to change it. – Kurt Lewin
We’ll expect our active change agents to question the status quo, make change stick, have a bias for action, and engage, influence and educate others on Change Acceleration. They’ll also act as sources of innovative ideas for how we can deliver superior products and services with a superior experience for our customers. Perhaps most important in improving our ability to quickly and effectively drive and react to change, the change agents will act as communication conduits to carry important messages down from leadership, up from the front lines, and throughout the company from our customers.
It’s become a cliché for a business to say that it’s most valuable resource is its employees, but in this case, I honestly believe it. If we can harness the truly awesome intellects and horsepower of 11,000 employees, I think Level 3 can keep revolutionizing not only the way we communicate, but actually make the world a better place.
How important are the human aspects of change to your company’s success?
What mindset, methods or tools to manage the people side of change are working for you? Let us know in the comments below.