Archive for September, 2007
In many ways, we talk about Change Management just like we talk about the weather. There’s a lot of moaning and groaning about it, but not much in the way of actually doing anything to make it better. It’s as if we’ve given up, and are willing to accept the notion that Change is overwhelmingly difficult. That’s a pity, because the problem of Change Management is as susceptible to rational thought, methodical analysis and problem solving techniques as is any other problem.What holds us back from applying our considerable intelligence to the issue of Managing Change, is that we’ve fallen prey to a flock of myths regarding the Change process. Ironically, these myths fly in the face of what we know personally to be true about how we as individuals react and cope with Change… but we ignore what we know and apply these myths to the behaviours we see around us. The result? A whole lot of fuzzy thinking regarding this very human activity of ‘Responding to Change’
Several years ago, The Sunday Times of Ireland held a conference on the issue of Change and their advertisement roared out “Change or Die”… Change books by the score inform the reader that if they resist Change, THEY are the problem. When faced with an organizational Change, if you dare to ask “Why should I change?” you are likely perceived by management as insubordinate.
With all of this nonsense surrounding the issue of Change, is it any wonder that most efforts to implement organizational Change fail miserably? At the root of all these misconceived notions about Change is failure to distinguish between two different types of ‘Change’. In reality, and you will confirm this for yourself in a few minutes, we do not ‘resist change’, we do however ‘resist being changed’. The difference between these two types of Change is not just one of trivial semantics.
If you’ve ever managed a production line, then you would be well acquainted with the concept of a ‘bottleneck’. For those that haven’t, here’s the concept in a nutshell; Assume process ‘A’ creates items for process ‘B’, and process ‘B’ can only handle five items per hour. There is no point in increasing the productivity level of process ‘A’ past five items per hour. Process ‘B’ is the bottleneck.
With that example in mind, let’s examine this thing called ‘Creativity’. I’d like to suggest the problem is not in a lack of new ideas, but an overly effective set of stage ‘B’ bottlenecks, that allow very little to escape from your mind and into the light of day.
You’ll see it when you believe it! — that might sound like a snippet from some corny motivational keynote presentation, but never-the-less it contains more than just a few grains of truth. Sometimes building the future requires nothing more than simply believing it will happen. It’s called a self fulfilling prophecy or the Pygmalion effect.
Perhaps the best example is a run on a bank. If enough people believe a bank is going to fail, then it fails. A bank is a fragile financial balancing act; supported primarily by the blind trust of the depositors. Remove that trust and it collapses under the weight of massed withdrawal slips.
I’m a bright lad. Honest! But even with this as a given, if you give me a set of instructions, then the chances are better than good that I won’t understand exactly what you meant. It’s not that either of us are terrible at communicating, it’s that communicating is terribly difficult.
We do our best to ensure that what we understand is what the other person meant to say. The strategy we use most often is asking for confirmation. We repeat back, or rephrase what we were asked to do, with the goal of getting a nod of agreement. The person we’re speaking with, is expecting this approach and is all too eager to agree that we’ve ‘got it’… then they can get on with their next task. It’s a small room version of Groupthink.
“If anything can go wrong, it will” – If there was ever a series of rules to live by, the the Laws of Murphy come close to fitting the bill. What better way to plan our lives, than to defend ourselves from the attacks of a malevolent universe?
Thing is? The Universe is neither malevolent nor benevolent – It’s not only that it doesn’t care, it’s that the machinations of the world are oblivious to our existence. The world we live in, is the world we choose to prepare for. Events, like the nefarious plans of Murphy and his ilk, assume meaning only according to the habitations we provide them.
It doesn’t matter where we look, old copies of Time, Popular Mechanics, daily newspapers or even our favorite science fiction magazines. All their many visions of the future included one particular element: the personal flying car. Where is it? More importantly… Why isn’t it?
Yes, we have air travel, even more than most people believe or can imagine. At any moment in time, there are more than 1,000,000 people in the air. That’s a migrant city in perpetual flight. Yet it’s not the flying car vision of the past. That vision was one of the personal flying car. An advance that would replace the all too familiar automobile. It was of the average citizen of the street, flying in ordered flowing streams to work and picking up the groceries. That hasn’t happened. Sadly(?), it will never happen.