Friday, August 24, 2012

Re-Thinking the Formula for Change

Over the weekend, a colleague sent me a link to a cute little video about the way to change the world. In sum, the makers said that you need three ingredients: an idea, a team, and action. I like it. Simple and clear.

But not enough.

I was reminded of Gleicher and Beckhard's Change Formula, D + V + F > RtC, where:

D = Dissatisfaction with the current situation, plus

V = Vision for improvement, plus

F = First Steps, must outweigh

Rtc = Resistance to Change

Recently, due to some reading and conversations, I've been thinking of some additional variables to further enrich this model. Perhaps the Change Formula could go something like this...

D + V + F + R + P > ItC

D = Desire to change or Drive to change, plus

V = Vision for the possibilities in change, plus

F = First concrete steps in the direction of the change, plus

R = Resilience, plus

P = Participation, must outweigh

ItC = Immunity to Change

A few comments on the tweaks above, in reverse order:

Immunity to Change - This is the title of psychologists Robert Kagan and Lisa Lahey's book on our built-in defenses against change. Their thesis, in a nutshell, is that we will do almost anything to avoid changing, even when it is for the better...and for our own good.

"Better the devil you know" may actually reflect a deep psychological truth.

If Kagan and Lahey are right (and I think they are), it appears that we are so change-averse that we will do our utmost to rationalize our way out of changing.

This may be the reason for the extraordinarily high rate of failure of change initiatives.

So what is the answer? I believe that the next three tweaks to the Change Formula may hold the key.

Desire - While dissatisfaction with the status quo may drive some change efforts, it may not be enough. Change expert John Adams taught us this years ago. One person's sense of dissatisfaction may be the next person's "so what?" Unless we are feeling a strong inner drive to change (a "sense of urgency" as John Kotter would say), not much will happen.

Do your people feel the need to change?

Resilience - Change guru Daryl Conner describes resilience as the human capacity to absorb high levels of change without cracking up. We can absorb a lot, even when we don't like it, which is most of the time. If we are so resilient, what's the problem? The problem with resilience is change exhaustion: the unrelenting "white water" rate of organizational change that produces cynicism, stress, and burnout.

Are your people ready for more change?

Participation - The great Meg Wheatley once said, "People support what they help to create." In a word, inclusion.

Many have wondered, How do you get 'buy-in?' The answer is, as Wheatley says, bring people into the process.

Have you designed involvement into your change strategy?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday August 24, 2012

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