A Lifehacker Facebook post read: “Hi bosses. If you’re gonna mess with sh*t, you should be able to explain why things are the way they are before you change things.” It’s advice that applies far beyond bosses and is especially a temptation for new employees.

People want to make progress and everyone wants to put their own stamp on things. Change is omnipresent, but it doesn’t make change-for-change’s-sake a good thing. It’s a good rule of thumb to be able to understand why things are the way they are now before you jump in and head a different direction. There may be valid reasons why the status quo came to be and vested interests in keeping it that way.

Organizations and people are only able to absorb so much change at one time. You may decide to save your change capacity for something else if you learned more about “what is” and why, or you may uncover points that give merit to your argument about why change is necessary.

Either way, if you’re gonna mess with it, first come to appreciate what led to it being how it is now. The time it takes to understand the context is almost always time well spent.

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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