Change Thinking

I was looking up a change management methodology the other day which was full of excellent advice and checklists  like “create a change coalition, complete a change readiness assessment,  and align HR practices etc.”. and coming to the conclusion that this all too typical change methodology tells us almost nothing about how to help people change.

I was reminded of  a change management training course I attended 25 years ago ( yes they also had change management back then) . The topic was how to be  flexible and change agile and the advice back then was to deliberately change your daily routines in order to remain mindful rather than being on autopilot .  For some reason this really resonated to me at the time to the point that” mixing it up” is something I still do just about every day a quarter of a century later.  Be it so trivial as starting my shaving from a different place each day to finding an ever more varied route  driving home.  My teenage children constantly berate me for taking sudden turnings down unfamiliar streets instead of taking the most familiar and quickest way home.

I have no idea if this practice has in any way made me more change agile over the years but I do think the designers of that original training had a point. So much of how we deal with change or support others is related to the types of thinking we do and what we think about.

You could say that a lot of change leadership is trying to facilitate the right sort  of thinking in others. This is problematic as we now know all our brains are different  and we have varied individual perceptions of how the world works. It seems that change really does need to happen one brain at a time.  Ironically our brains are wired for learning and change even if we are out of the habit of reflecting on our practice.

Our brains hold our potential to change however we will tend to resist being changed by others. A key operating principle of how we think  is self direction.  If more leaders understood the implications of this they might benefit from trying  less hard to “sell” change to their people and think about how they could help them “buy in”  .

It does take more effort in consultation and dialogue up front so change initially appears slower however in my experience the pay back and pace of change later on can be breath taking.  Surely an estimated change success rate of about 30% for large scale change projects  is in itself a compelling reason for changing how we do change?


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