Change by its very nature carries assumptions, values and beliefs which eventually determine whether an individual will accept or reject the process. An individual’s culture needs to be rejuvenated and constantly revised in order to thrive in today’s difficult and increasingly competitive environment. This transformation takes time, effort and commitment.
In an interesting twist, the human brain adapts to three basic types of change. To strengthen current behaviours; to modify existing behaviour patterns; and to accommodate completely new behaviours. We will focus on accommodating completely new behaviours.
Let us assume you were offered an opportunity to urgently learn a new skill. Unless you are a modern day genius, the first thoughts on your mind would be ‘How long will it take me to gain mastery?’, ‘What if I fail?’
Automatically ,your mind launches into personal and social anxiety and the quick – fix solution to this would be to ‘flee’ from the situation by either declining the offer or finding excuses as to why you cannot do it. This however, becomes a real problem, a costly one at that.
Reasons why we resist change
There are several reasons why we would resist change. I have highlighted a few:
- We get too comfortable with the current situation.
- Fear of the Unknown
- Normal routine is disrupted
- The change wasn’t ‘MY’ idea to start with
- Fear of failure
- The purpose of change is unclear
- Fear that you will lose something of value because of the change
- The rewards of the change don’t match the effort required
- Change requires additional commitment
- You have set traditions and habits of the past
The most dangerous phrase in the language of change is ‘I’ve always done it this way’. Sadly, this seems to always be a default state for most of us especially, when faced with situations where we need to change. Well, in the same breath while we are busy struggling to maintain the status quo, let us be reminded that a comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.
Now, we know that change really needs to happen, but we don’t know how to go about delivering it.
- Where do you start?
- Whom do you involve?
- How do you see it through to the end?
With inferences from Lewin’s, Mckinsey and Kotter’s Change Models, I will attempt to break down how we (you and I) can successfully go through the process of change.
- For change to happen, you must first create an internal sense of urgency around the need for change. This will help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving. Start by carrying out an honest discussion with yourself and examine any current or future opportunities that could be exploited. Once you have done that, indentify potential threats and develop scenarios of what could happen in the future. You can also request support from trusted friends and family who can help strengthen your resolve
- Remember, managing the change process is not enough; you have to lead it, especially if there are other people involved in the transition like a spouse, children, parents, team or committee. Work to convince them that the change is necessary and look towards attaining emotional commitment from them.
- To lead the change, you need a clear vision that people can grasp easily. A clear vision will help the people around you understand why you are asking them to do something. Determine what is really central to the change and review/practice your ‘vision speech’ as often as you can. Once they see for themselves what you are trying to do, then everything will begin to make sense, even to you.
- What you do with your vision after you create it determines how successful your efforts will be. Communicate it frequently. Let your vision be embedded in everything that you do, apply it to all aspects of your life and walk the talk
- Naturally, every vision is bound to face obstacles. These could be people around you. Learn to recognize these obstacles and take action quickly to win them over to your side or remove them from your scheme of things. You must accept the eventual possibility that not everyone will be open to your ideas and it is perfectly okay to let them go after several attempts of trying to win them over. Doing this will help the change process move forward.
- Continue to justify your vision and need for change by thoroughly analysing your pros and cons. Avoid critics and negative thinkers who may hurt your progress. Celebrate any milestones achieved. Create quick wins. Nothing motivates more than success.
- Real change runs deep! Many change attempts fail because victory is declared too early. Build on the change. After every win, analyse what went right and what needs improving. Re- set your goals and continue building on the momentum you have achieved. Do not tire; practice the act of continuous improvement – KAIZEN. (KAI – change, ZEN – for better)
- Finally, make the change stick. Do this by making deliberate effort to show the values behind your vision in your day to day life. Talk about the progress you are making and share your success stories. Most importantly, build a culture around the change; this will help ensure that your efforts are not lost of forgotten.
In conclusion, focussing entirely on the change process including awareness and preparedness makes the transition easier. Dealing with change, and not avoiding it, will help you perform well in a new environment.
The writer is the Founder and Lead consultant for Sustainability Africa, a Management Consulting and CSR Strategy firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more of our services please visit us at www.sustainability-africa.com or Email firstname.lastname@example.org