CHANGE: WHAT IS IT?
Every decision we make, every new job we tackle, every new idea we have, involves changing the old with the new. But what is change? And what we need to do differently to make it easy?
Change is more complex than we realize: it involves an essential system problem that we too often ignore – the core reason why change incurs resistance. And too often we kick off our change initiatives with a specific goal and vision for an outcome that invites bias, resistance, buy-in, and decision making.
It’s possible to facilitate change, get the outcomes we seek, and have a successful implementation without resistance or disruption, and with consensus, buy-in, creativity and leadership.
Here is a 30 minute podcast that discusses with me and Nathan Ives, publisher of StrategyDriven Magazine. Making Change Work #1: What is Change? and Why is Change so Hard?
WHY IS CHANGE SO DIFFICULT?
Sometimes it’s said that people hate change. In fact, they love change; they just don’t like the disruption change causes. The problem lies in the way we go about creating change.
Usually we attempt to create change by pushing new information – new activities, new ideas, new rationale – into the status quo (that is working just fine, thank you) and hoping the reasoning we offer those involved with the change request will carry the day.
The problem is systems. We all live in systems – families, teams, companies, relationships. Systems are made up of rules that everyone in a system buys in to. Each system is different, with different rules and norms and values/beliefs. And each system holds tightly to its uniqueness as the organizing force behind the activities, goals, and output. Change any of the elements and we change the system.
We learned in 6th grade that systems seek homeostasis (balance), making it unlikely we can pull one thing out of a system and shove something else back in without the system resisting. Currently, our attempts at change (or sales, or coaching, or negotiating) are little more than pushing our agenda in from the outside and watching as the system resists in order to maintain homeostasis. Hence, we have difficulties in implementing, in closing sales, in getting agreement. Indeed, all implementations, all buying decisions, all negotiations, are change management problems.
But it’s possible to create lasting change by enlisting buy-in from the system before offering information or requiring change. Listen to this podcast, Making Change Work #2: What are Systems and How Do They Influence Change and hear how systems are the organizing principle around change – and what to do about it.
THE HISTORIC PROBLEMS WITH CHANGE MANAGEMENT MODELS: BIAS, RESISTANCE, AND PUSH
Historically, we have approached change through information sharing, attempts at consensus, and strong leadership; we’ve assumed that with a good leader who offers rational and compelling information, changees will be willing to change and will know how to process and make use of the information we offer. But given the resistance we get, we know that’s not true. We continue along this path and merely deal with the end result – the resistance. By then, of course, it’s too late.
It’s possible to help folks decide to change in a way that does not cause resistance – from the inside out – nor hear with biased ears, and enable us to facilitate the change without any push behaviors. But not with conventional change models. It’s a systems issue: the reasons change is being sought might be compelling, but by ignoring the system that underlies the status quo, we actually create the resistance we get. We must begin change from the inside and teach the system how to reorganize according to its rules and values. Making Change Work #3: The Problems of Change Management: Bias, Resistance, and Push
WHAT IS RESISTANCE?
There is a universally held concept that resistance is ubiquitous, that any change, any new idea, will engender resistance. University programs teach it how to manage resistance, Harvard professors such as Chris Argyris have made their reputations and written books on it, consultants make their livings managing it. Yet there is absolutely no reason for there to ever be resistance: we create resistance by the very models we use to implement change.
Let’s start with the underlying issue: systems. Everyone lives in, works in, a system of people, rules, relationships, expectations, history. Every system is unique and self-replicating. Everything that exists in a system has its place – a place that keeps the system functioning as it’s functioning, regardless of how impractical or non-efficient it is. Systems just are. When anything new attempts to enter a system and the system has not reorganized itself to maintain systems congruence, it will defend itself and resist – hence, we always define and create our own resistance.
It’s possible to avoid resistance by beginning a change or acceptance process by first facilitating the system to re-think, re-organize, re-consider its rules, relationships, and expectations so the system itself decides it wants to change based on re-ordering its beliefs and values. Inside-out instead of outside-in. Making Change Work #4: If Decisions Are Always Rational, Why Are Changees Resisting?
WHY IS BUY IN NECESSARY – AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT
As sellers, change agents, coaches, and managers, we seek to motivate change. Whether it involves a purchase, a new idea, a different set of behaviors, or a team project, all successful change requires shifting the status quo to adapt to something new, and those involved must buy-in to the new. As outsiders we pose the probability of some sort of disruption to whatever has been working until now.
The problems we face when we begin a change implementation of any kind (and make no mistake: a purchase is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue) are a result of us attempting to push our agendas in to an operating system that has grown comfortable with its existing components and any change will cause disruption that will bring unknown consequences. Hence, the need for buy-in to enable everyone who will touch the solution to not only agree to any change, but have an opportunity to manage the change before it reaches the stage of out-of-control disruption. Making Change Work #5: Why is Buy-in Necessary and How to Achieve It
MAKING CHANGE WORK: HOW TO AVOID RESISTANCE, DISRUPTION, AND FAILURE
Until now, we have approached change by starting with a specific goal and implementation plan and seeking buy-in to move forward successfully. While we take meticulous steps to bring aboard the right people, have numerous meetings to discuss and manage any change or disruption possibilities, our efforts are basically top-down and outside-in and end up causing resistance and disruption.
It’s possible to avoid resistance and disruption by starting from the inside, by beginning with an explicit goal and leaving the specifics – the Hows – up to the people working with the new initiative – an inside-out, bottom-up/top-down collaboration. While the result may not end up exactly like leadership envisages, it will certainly meet the objectives sought, and include far more creativity and buy-in, promote leadership, and avoid resistance and disruption – and potential failure. Making Change Work #6: Making Change Work: A Radical Approach to Change Management, Real Leadership
Sharon Drew Morgen is the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® model, a decision facilitation and change management model often used in sales to help sellers facilitate the change issues buyers must address before they can make a buying decision. She’s written 7 books on the topic including a NYTimes Business Bestseller and an Amazon bestseller. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.sharondrewmorgen.com for a range of articles on change, buying decisions, and hearing others. She has a new book coming out titled What? Did you really say what I think I heard?
Nathan Ives is the publisher of StrategyDriven Magazine, a magazine devoted to business planning and tactical execution tools. He is a management consultant in the Energy industry. He can be reached at email@example.com .