The Lies of Change

September 27, 2007 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

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.

Here are some HUGE Changes which you have likely embraced voluntarily in your life; Marriage; Children; looked for a new job; learnt a 2nd language; learned to play a musical instrument; drive a car; ride a bicycle; learned to swim; etc. etc.

All of the above Changes required immense effort on your part to assimilate. You did it willingly, that’s not to say it was easy to learn these new skills, if fact some of them were exceedingly difficult. Some of them even put your life at risk. Driving a car or learning to swim can kill you if you don’t acquire the proper skills. The fact that we have willingly embraced the above Changes proves without doubt that we do NOT resist Change.

If you are saying to yourself as you read these ‘outrageous’ statements that I’m wrong, that the above Changes are ‘different’, then you are agreeing with me… Change doesn’t come in one flavor. There are types of Change which we do embrace. The challenge is to understand why we embrace the Changes above, and resist with all our might, the Changes below…

Getting fired; Being forced to use a new accounting system at work; Having to Change business processes, Being given a new sales area; Having the company Change your health benefits; Ill health; Losing a loved one etc. etc.

Can you see the pattern? In the first list of Changes they were all things over which we had control, things we decided we wanted to do, and regardless of how difficult they were, we decided to do them. We decided to Change.

In the second list, the Changes are out of our control. They are not decisions we’re making, they are decisions imposed on us. Notice… it is far more difficult, and dangerous, to learn how to drive a car, than it is to learn how to use a new accounting package. Yet, we embrace the former and resist the latter with all our effort. We don’t resist Change, we resist being Changed.

The other great lie regarding Change, is that ‘resisting Change is bad.’ Given that you’ve demonstrated you don’t really resist Change, you can restate this properly and it begins to make sense why people want us to believe this. ‘Resisting being Changed is bad.’

If we believed this, and acted accordingly, then life for those in power, whether they be management, corporations or governments, would be much, much easier. They would not have to give reasons for Change, they would only have to dictate it.

Again… in a minute you will demonstrate for yourself that the notion ‘Resisting Change is bad’ is sheer unadulterated nonsense. I am hereby announcing a Change in your financial situation. From now on, you must send me 1% of your monthly earnings… Send me an e-mail for details on where to send your monthly cheque.

I sincerely doubt any reader, anywhere, is going to willingly submit to this Change. In other words they are going to resist it. Is this a ‘good’, or a ‘bad’ thing? Well, it’s obviously bad for me as the person who wanted to retire after this posting. It’s also obviously the right thing for you. If you still disagree? I look forward to your monthly donation to the de Jager retirement fund.

I’m sure I’m going to get an e-mail or two insisting that’s a silly example, but is it? Make a small modification and it’s a salesperson/consultant/trend knocking on your door suggesting you change the way you do business. Do you ‘resist’ the suggestion to Change? Perhaps by asking the outrageous questions… “Why should I do this? What’s in it for me?” Or do you just buy into the new product, service, process, technology without question, without thought, without reason?

So? Back to the opening paragraph? Is “Change or Die” applicable to all changes? If you resist a Change, are you really the problem? Is asking “Why should I Change” really a bad question?


Entry filed under: Change, Change Management, Leaders, Leadership, Life, Management, Managing, Problem Solving.

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