Plenty of platitudes surround this concept. We are all students of change and we are all subject to it. What is different for each of us are the emotional dynamics that a change brings about. We all experience changes, my granddaughter changed schools recently, it took her a nanosecond to adjust; as we get older we experience things differently and with more thought. As adolescents our first experience of death most naturally comes through the passing of our grandparents often with our first sudden realisation that we too are mortal, quite a change. There tends to be change in every facet of our lives, events tend to dictate change yielding, at times, perplexing and hard to understand situations. Many people shy away from the unknown but for the most part I would choose chaos and uncertainty over stability and predictability any day of the week. I believe we have no option but to do so. It is fated to be that way. It is only when we believe that we can control, manage, impose or dictate change that we live with false expectations. It is those who in pursuit of predictability stand against change, whose actions impede progress and force change to manifest itself often in destructive ways. Those who believe that they can set conditions upon and constraints around change live a lie. Bankers promoting the nonsensical investment strategy that, according to them, is a slam-dunk because everybody says so, that is until you cannot exit. Stability breeds a paucity in decision making, we close down options, avoid challenging the assumptions, believe we are right and find the evidence to support this because what happened yesterday indicates that today will be no different. It is through chaos that creativity can flourish, that decisions need to be challenged and options widened. Order stifles advancement by not allowing in
the new. When I lost my Mum my life changed, when I lost my father a year later, it was different once again. I felt as though I had been set adrift, anchorless and ever more exposed to elements of change, it felt scary but it also felt that it was the right way of things. When my wife and I die I fully expect our children to feel the same. Could I have affected the changes in my life that followed? I do not believe so, what followed were systemic instances where one event acted as a catalyst on a series of new events. The only facet of what I could control was my emotions and thoseactions that were aligned to these.
If you believe change happens for a reason and that reason is not you but uncontrollable events around you, then your reaction to these events will be actions that are defined by the purpose that you ascribe to them and not a purpose ascribed by someone else. We are not in control of events we are though in control of our response. We are not in control of events
we are though in control of our response.
Why organisational change is so hard to implement and make stick stems from the belief that it is managed. If this is a common belief then, when unexpected change happens which it nearly always does, blame and finger pointing abound. Blame leads to a paralysis in decision making, fear keeps us stuck in the paradigm of what we know rather than what we do not, change initiatives die. The dynamics of the situation becomes the focus not the responsiveness of people to manage the impact of the shifting parameters. If within the organisation we set the conditions for people to love change, be responsive to it and evaluate it in respect of the wider purpose that cements all our activity then I believe the change will stick. This sort of change is being led by common values and a ‘sense’ of what is right for us all. People are aware that when we bring in something new that we cannot truly predict every outcome with certainty but what we can do is prepare people to learn from the outcome and be responsive to it.
As Friedrich Nietzsche describes it:
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.”
This is the process which best suits organisational change, that people clearly want things tomorrow to bear some resemblance to today but rather than hide from the truth that change is inevitable let us be self-aware, have a growth mindset and a love of learning. To love the process is all the battle.