Starting with this post I am going to discuss the various aspects of change and will be spreading them out over additional posts to keep them from getting too long. These posts will include the What, the Why, and the How of Change. I will use some examples in each area to make it a bit more real and not just theoretical.
Starting out – “What is change?” – Depending on who you talk to and their specific experience with change, you may get various answers. Most will give simple definitions or interpretations of what change ‘means’ (feels) to them.
- Change sucks
- Change is hard/difficult
- Change is disruptive
- Change is important
- Change is good
- Change is necessary
- Change is progress
Let’s look at some of Dictionary.com’s definition examples:
1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone: to change one’s name; to change one’s opinion; to change the course of history.
2. to transform or convert
Whereas people usually define what they feel about change, the dictionary examples above show the verb (action) tense of change. The feelings about change will typically match up with the actions of change, with each feeling being dependent on how the change was implemented or performed. In each of our personal and business worlds, change is never as simple as a single action or task, it is a series of steps that we take to achieve a purpose. Changing how we feel about ourselves or others, changing how we maintain our health and fitness, changing how we treat our clients, employees or co-workers, etc… does not happen in a single action. Change requires multiple actions and mental exercises with the manner in which you do them typically determining success or failure. And what this all means, is that ‘Change is a process’.
When you are thinking about making a change with anything you do, whether it be at work or home, the most important thing to understand is that change is not an event or an action – it is a process. Ok – you may be thinking that this is a simple concept, ‘so what’s the big deal?’ Many individuals and companies still treat change as a task – one that needs little planning – just action. When change is treated in this manner, no matter what it is – health, finances, bad habits, etc.. without a plan, without really understanding what you are trying to fix, without weighing the pros and cons of your actions, and without considering the people who will be affected by your actions – it will fail. After all, most changes are not instigated by a single event or person – they typically happen after experiencing issues, frustrations or complaints over an extended period of time.
Changes typically happen for us when we are fed up with how things are or have been and we just know ‘something has to change!’ Many will see people issues and process inefficiencies as just inconveniences that can be ignored and hope that they will just fix themselves, while others just assume that the work required to change something is not worth the potential results – so why bother? For some, the concept of a change, even when it is obviously required scares them and they just give up before they even start. More often than not though these procrastinators and resistors to change will come back to the same conclusion – something has to change!
This final desperate realization that things have to change is many times strong enough to be a catalyst for implementing new ideas or practices. Sometimes though it comes so late in the game that in desperation, changes get implemented with little thought or planning. In the business world these situations occur when leaders, managers or business owners realize that something just isn’t right or there are issues that they do not fully understand but know cannot continue. Exasperated, they decide that “some changes need to be made” and “they need to be made now”. With little thought and planning they charge in and make blanket changes that they think are going to turn things around! Typically though, due to their lack of planning and thoughtful consideration they attempt to fix things from ‘their’ viewpoint and this often makes the situation or issue worse than when they started – this is a change failure.
Change fails for two primary reasons, the first is that change is not treated as a process and implemented in a proper manner and the second is people’s natural resistance to change. This resistance to change usually comes from fear of the unknown or past bad experiences with other change failures. In my next post I will address change implementation with some examples and in follow-up post I will discuss overcoming resistance to change.