The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787, and the first ten Amendments to it were ratified in 1791, just four years later. In the subsequent 225 years, there have only been a dozen more Amendments.

Not only is this a story about America, I think it is also a model for how most change happens.

It is difficult getting the initial concepts from idea to paper, and then it is often challenging to get that concrete delineation of change ratified. Once something is spelled out in writing, it gains clarity, and often this means that what is made clear by the writer is not what others thought it would be.

Once the idea is approved, details must be decided that were either not thought of or not articulated in the initial proposal. I believe this is akin to the Bill of Rights; things were clarified shortly after passage of the Constitution that were not considered or codified in the initial document. When a new process or program is introduced is when the most decisions must be made, as there is no precedent or clear interpretation of what was intended.

But after a change is in effect for a period, people adjust and understand the parameters and fewer major modifications are required. The change also becomes ingrained; it would be incredibly difficult to abolish or even rewrite the Constitution today.

The next time you are trying to enact a major change, follow the constitutional model. Get approval as soon as you are able for the broad initial constructs. Clarify or amend shortly thereafter to provide the detail necessary for implementation, and then let time take over to help the “change” become accepted as the “normal.”  (This is why “piloting” something works so well; it reduces the barriers to start and inertia takes over to help build momentum towards permanence.)

America is a different place than when the Founders took out their quills and penned the initial document, but the change process remains as consistent as the Constitution itself. Think about that the next time you want to create your own revolution.

beth triplett

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