The Homestead Story

I worked for an organization that was experiencing a significant culture shift. The introduction of a transformational HR structure was top of mind.  The company acknowledged that it was in a critical phase of its business.  Traditional ways of running things weren’t sustainable if the growth strategy was going to be achieved.  Outdated systems were being replaced with those that could handle large data sets and facilitate predictive reporting.  Compliance requirements, HR programs and procedures needed to be established so that recruitment efforts, performance management and leadership development could be advanced. 

Sound familiar to anyone who has been involved in the evolution of a well established company? 

Change of this magnitude often comes with significant resistance.  Why?  Not because those who pre-date our arrival are being difficult or intentionally defensive.  On the contrary, they are incredibly proud.  They have been a critical part, the fabric if you will, in the success of the business so far.  We wouldn’t be here if not for their hard work and their ongoing commitment.  However, there is a harsh reality that it was time for things to change, to progress, or else the company would become stagnant and may not even survive.

During my job interview, I had to find a way to demonstrate that I was being hired to help move the business forward, but without disrespecting the past.  But how could I explain this in an authentic way to the hiring managers, some who had been with the company for decades?  It’s known to many that I often use analogies…a lot of them!  Its my way of painting a picture to help get my message across. So, that’s what I did to address this sensitive topic. I shared the visual of a Homestead that came into my head. 

Imagine this.  A beautiful farmhouse perched majestically on a hill overlooking 50 acres of land, passed down to us from the previous generation. The building steeped in history and full of character.  Large, spacious rooms, 10ft ceilings, a covered porch and lots of windows.  From a distance, it’s an attractive, impressive building, but up close its clear that it is in need of repair.  It has knob and tube wiring, 9×9 asbestos floor tiles in the kitchen and the plumbing, though still working, has to be replaced.  Something this valuable is not a tear down.  Instead, we are going to honour the hard work of those before us and renovate the house, room by room, modernizing it, but keeping the structure and preserving the integrity.  We have to acknowledge what went into building this home and the efforts to maintain it for so many years – the memories, the history, the legacy. These can’t be ignored, but rather they need to be celebrated. 

Much like a Company that flourished before us, we should appreciate that the decisions made in the past were made for a reason.  While they built the business, the information they had and the resources available need to put in context, not questioned or criticized.  They did what they did, with what they had, because they thought it was the right thing to do at the time.  Like the Homestead that is passed down to us, there is no choice but to update it and bring it up to today’s standards; however, we have to do it by looking backward with gratitude and respecting the past so that we can move forward to the future.