Change Is Not a Level Playing Field

There are two deep and consistent truths about change. First, change is inevitable – the only question is whether you create change or are the victim of change. Second, very few people enjoy and look forward to change. Thus, we have an inherent conflict between these two truths – it’s to our best advantage to proactively and purposefully create change (rather than waiting for it to happen to us), yet most of us resist and fear change. Quite a dilemma! Until more of us are ready to embrace and look forward to change, these two truths will remain and conflict.

In light of these two truths, there’s one more change untruth that often gets in our way when we do seek to create proactive change – the false assumption that everyone sees, relates to and responds to change in the same way. This mistaken assumption often has a negative impact on our change efforts because we educate, communicate and set expectations about change based upon this false assumption—a formula for disaster!

Simply put, the false assumption is that our change efforts and implementations are being introduced and happening on a level playing field. This is far from the truth. First, your people (every one of them) have different perspectives on change, including different views on the value of change, different fears and resistances to change, and different degrees of attachment to the way things are and have been.

Second, most change initiatives are launched not into a downhill environment or even a flat or level environment, but into an uphill environment. In many cases, there are actually significant blocks and walls to impede change, as well as people, processes and systems that will naturally restrict or slow down change, often without us realizing that this will be the impact. In short, change almost always happens in a resistant environment, and this is the assumption that will most serve you in implementing change.

Third, despite the obvious truth that most people have had bad previous experiences with change, we too often go into change mode with an unconscious assumption that no such change baggage exists. Once again, all your people come to the table with change baggage, which is one source of resistance to any change you propose. And a playing field cluttered with baggage is certainly not level!

Now for the good news – there is a solution for the foregoing challenges and obstacles. First, start with the assumption that change will be occurring on an unbalanced playing field. Second, assume that there will be resistance to and even obstruction of change. Third, assume that your people all have change baggage and that this baggage will need to be addressed in the change process (before, during and after). Finally, assume that your planned change will not go exactly as expected and that the desired change will end up looking different than you planned. This reality is neither good nor bad, but it is a reality and one that must be considered as you prepare for the dynamics of change.

While the details and small moving parts about change will always vary based on the specific scenario, focus on the foregoing assumptions (which will enhance your change effectiveness), commit to communication (talking and listening), and seek to understand your people’s many and diverse perspectives and levels of resistance to change. And never assume that change exists or happens on a level playing field. With these critical shifts, your (and your team’s) change experience will be less stressful, work more effectively and achieve greater impact than you ever imagined.

If you’d like to receive these Daily Wake Up Calls every morning via email, join our community of different thinkers by signing up here. Please also join me on Facebook and Twitter.

Speak Your Mind