Monday, October 31, 2011

A changing perspective on change

Since I started being involved in organizational development, around 1970, I have learned that change is here to stay, that change goes ever faster, that change is the key to success, but that - alas! alas! - people have resistance to change. The hallmark of true leaders and true consultants is that they are able change agents. I since have become convinced that much of this gospel is bull.
Imagine two guys at a bar, talking about women. (Guys have been known to do that.) One of them tells the other what the problem is with women: they have resistance to seduction. What does this  slightly repugnant story teach us? That this guy is a failure when it comes to women - in more senses than one. For me, people talking about resistance to change also are downright failures, and also slightly repugnant.
Imagine people that have no resistance to change: tasteless and spineless twisters. If people lack resistance to change, by all means change them for people who have it.

Resistance to change is just as natural as feeling a need for change. Most people have both, even at the same time. The resistance to change that many managers, management consultants and even management writers complain about, is just resistance to ill-considered, arrogant views from outsiders. When you feel things have to change, meaning people have to change, there is no better platform to start from as becoming interested in things how they are, in what people are doing, how they feel about it, what they think about it, why things are as they are. You should understand that, you should appreciate that, even admire aspects of it. If things have gone downhill for a time, understand how and why that happened. The people it has been happening to are rarely the perpetrators, more often the victims. And if they are the perpetrators, they got there after having become victims. Of previous change czars, for example.

If you have a true understanding of what is happening, your suggestions become concrete and specific and can build on what people themselves have told you. Very often, you don't need to start with suggestions, but you can ask for suggestions. And if the situation has so deteriorated that no positive suggestions are forthcoming, you can at least communicate your understanding of what happened and why. The best way to start changing is to understand the present, and value the past.
One of the most moving moments I encountered in an organizational constellation about an ICT-firm with internal tensions between conservatives and progressives (changing the focus of the firm), was when the representatives of the future and of the past finally could look eye to eye and immediately fell in love with each other. The whole constellation and everyone in it, was transformed with a sudden glow.
So shift your attention when change seems to be indicated. Start with what should be retained. Appreciate that. As a PR-exercise that is fuitless. You need to understand and really appreciate the situation as it is. I you can't, if you won't, get the hell out of here.

The more women try to change their men, the more these men resist usually. Resistance to well-intentioned and well-argumented improvement. Same problem; same solution. No use in trying to make angels out of beasts if you hate beasts.

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