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Change Management - Change is Inevitable

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Posted 20 January 2012 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with your change management skills.

Change management - Change is inevitable

"You can't step into the same river twice".
Means that change is always with us.

Yet many people are troubled by change.

Why is that?
The reason is, that we are always running habitual "mental routines": habits;

Habit patterns of thought and action.

You have evolved in order to achieve a biological mission: to survive and prosper!

In order to do that, your brain creates and operates complex "programmes" which it develops over days, weeks or even years of difficult and sometimes painful learning experience.

These mental programs are the neurological bases that run many of your daily behaviours: Tying up your shoes laces, driving the car, walking down the stairs or verbalising your thoughts.

These patterned responses are gained only after much effort.

They are highly beneficial in the "great and endless struggle for life" because these programmes, once learned, increase the speed and efficiency with which you can deal with your changing environment.

Examples
Look how long it takes a child to learn how to walk
Answer: Months of painful experience

Look how long it takes a child to learn how to talk
Answer: Years of painful experience

Look how long it took you to learn how to drive a car
Answer: Months of painful experience

But once these thought and motor patterns are learned and automatized, then they become very useful and very fast.
These patterns, that are so hard won, are not given up lightly, or without a struggle.
To give up old patterns requires that we regress back to the painful "learning stage" which feels so awkward, painful and less efficient.

So we don't want to drop our old habits

We say "old habits die hard"

But sometimes we must drop old habits.

Why must we give up old habits and make painful changes?

There are at least four good reasons

  1. Your original way of doing it was not very good
  2. The situations and circumstances change
  3. Technology advances
  4. Your goals change

Let's examine these one at a time:

Your original way of doing it was not very good

If your original pattern was wrong, then you will have automatized an ineffective method of thinking and acting.
These automated patterns feel right, feel good, feel comfortable, and feel natural.
But they don't work!

So you see people who have self-destructive patterns of thought, speech and behaviours which are blatantly not working to help the individual survive and prosper, and yet the person does not want to make any changes.

Weird

He has literately become his habit patterns: they feel right, feel comfortable, feel natural, they feel like his "soul".
And to give up his old pattern requires that he feels as if he is back in the baby stage, which feels so awkward, painful and less like who he really is.

So change does not occur easily.
It takes major forces to cause a major change.

Newton's first law states that:
"A body at rest will remain at rest until it is acted upon by an unbalanced external force"

As psychologists we can reformulate that law of mechanics to read "A person will keep doing what he is doing, in the way he has been doing it, until he is acted upon by an external force"

So we tend to say:

  • "I'm not changing for anyone!
  • "I am what I am"
  • "We don't need to reinvent the wheel"
  • "Why bother?"
  • "IF IT AINT BROKE DON'T FIX IT"

Warning: The dead hand of Inertia operates in the human psyche

People tend to keep doing what they are doing

People tend to keep doing what they are doing, in the way they have been doing it, until they are acted upon by an external force.

What is the external force?

Answer: The "external force" is the external circumstances.
External situation, environment and circumstances are always changing.

You can't step into the same river twice.

The organisation is not a static entity: because people come and go.

The population is dying and being replaced by the next generation who have new views and a different perspective on the world.

  • Political parties gain and lose power: (new labour)
  • Corporations become powerful and then collapse: RBS
  • Fashions come and go (Spice-girls)
  • Scare stories are promulgated and then forgotten (Mad cow disease)
  • Economies Boom and bust
  • Empires Rise and fall

Change: Never ending change is the true nature of life on earth.

So the mental patterns that worked well for you in the Spice girl/ Blair / Brown years, probably won't work well for you now.

Darwin said it like this:
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

You are going to have to make changes!
Why?
Because Technology advances

The French like to say, with a shrug "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"
Which means "the more things change, the more they stay the same"

But again the French are wrong.
Although mankind may not have changed in 100,000 years, his technology has.
And technology is a game changer.

The difference between Africa and the USA is not to be found in the differences in the DNA between the two continents, but rather in the technology.

  • If you use primitive technology, then you live in primitive conditions
  • If you use poor technology, then you will live in poor conditions
  • If you embrace the best technology then you will enjoy the best conditions

But the demand to embrace new technology brings you back to the problem of engrained mental patterns.
You are comfortable with the old technology: you already know how to use the old technology. Having to learn the new technology feels so awkward, painful and less efficient.

So we hear people say about technology
"We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Why bother? IF IT AINT BROKE DON'T FIX IT. Let me keep my old machine!"

But if you do keep your old machine, within five years, your job won't exist.
If you want to be employable five years from now, then you must keep up with technological advance.

Embrace technological change

Remember that it is not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to technological change.

Your goals change

Your actions are determined by two things:

  1. Your goals
  2. Your environment

Your environment is impersonal it acts upon you.
You don't control your environment.
But your goals are personal. You (should) create them. You are, in this respect, "the master of your fate, the captain of your destiny".

For example JF Kennedy changed the world when on 25th May 1961 he committed the United States to placing a man on the moon.
He said "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth,"

That decision changed history because it drove technological advance.
And technology is a game changer.

The space programme

It spurred on advances in:

  • Computing
  • Rocketry
  • Medicine
  • Materials science
  • Psychology
  • Engineering
  • Astronomy
  • Radio communications technology
  • Electronics
  • Mathematics
  • Construction
  • And much more

The Apollo programme inspired the whole of the USA (and the whole world?) to believe that more is possible.

Goals are indeed, a game changer!

Change your goals

If you change your goals, then you change your life.
But many people don't like to change their goals: because changing their goals requires that they change their habitual mental patterns.
And we already know that to give up those old patterns requires that we regress back to the painful learning stage which feels so awkward, and painful.

So instead we say:

  • "I'm not going to change for anyone!"
  • "I am what I am"
  • "Why bother going to the moon? There's nothing there"
  • "I'm happy as I am"

Your goals should change

Your goals should change because:

  1. The situation changes.
  2. Technology changes.
  3. And we are all getting older.

Change is a necessary and wonderful part of life

We are at are best when we accept change as a positive force, one to be embraced;
Not as "a necessary evil" "A bitter pill that we must swallow".

Although, on one level, we are mentally geared to be conservative and to resist change, we are also designed to be goal-focused, adaptive, creative and energetic individuals!

Let us not be too conservative.
Let us release this potential energy!
We can finish by hearing a few words from my old friend Albert Einstein

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them."
Indeed!

For more information about change management training visit the Corporate Coach Group website

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