Why is change so difficult?

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Many people will tell you things about change that are true. Change is pain, be the change, change is a choice… the list goes on.  There are even bell curves, such as the Kubler-Ross model that map your responses as you undergo change: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Yet in spite of all this knowledge, why is change so difficult?

When you look at the habits of people today and compare them with a common change agenda, you start to see a pattern.

  • We want performance.” – Yet change is a performance blocker.
  • We want to understand first then we will act.”  – Change is risk and requires action before understanding.
  • We want to change but you must see things our way.” – Change requires an open “both/and” perspective as a start (we are naturally programmed to react to a one-sided perspective).
  • We think if we change our mind or feelings we change.” – Yet change is rooted in behaviour.
  • Let’s keep this positive.” – However, change needs reality which is most often negative and painful.

Change is functionally different to our normal way of life. Performance-based habits are rooted in our culture, our upbringing, and the way we function on a daily basis. They are good and true… just not when it comes to change.

The processes and habits used to function in the world, are often the ones you need to “let go of” in order to change. That’s why it’s so difficult! It can feel like self-betrayal at the deepest level. You might have to give up that which has served you so well to this point; and that’s not really something any sensible person wants to do.

When we go into an organization, we mostly get “yes we want to change, but… “:

  • Don’t disrupt the performance!
  • Help us understand what we must do (so we can think or feel we are in control, then have lots of meetings about the change as a clever way of avoiding it).”
  • Don’t ask us to be open to both sides (just make the change inside of our existing paradigms).”
  • Don’t get too real here let’s just keep it happy (anything painful or confrontational is not allowed).”

These requests show a lack of real understanding of what it takes to change.

Consider these when you want to change:

  • Stop trying to change everything all the time, it’s counter productive and destructive to regular business functioning.  Multiple changes are often a desperate means to do the same thing differently which does not help. Choose only what’s necessary and never more than three change projects at a time.
  • Make sure the change is clearly defined, has a timeline and is measured regularly (behaviour /task mapped) as it proceeds and ends.
  • Make sure you have a support structure for the people going through the change, its where your change will happen (or not).

It’s also what we do, so contact us if you want help to make change happen.

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