1.1 Five Common Myths about Change
EGL Newsletter Volume 1.1
Here are some things that I have learned about change.
They may sound simplistic, but these myths are foundations to how I approach change in organizations. The longer I practice, the more attention I pay to the fundamental beliefs that guide engagement processes. So here are five myths I have found to be significant variables in seamless and sustainable change efforts.
Myth 1: Change is hard.
We’ve all heard it and probably said it. Well, the truth is, change really isn’t hard. People change all the time without really noticing much. Sometimes the new state is far easier than the old. This isn’t to say that there is no work involved, for there usually is. It simply says that people change easily, when there is a compelling reason and they have the tools to do the required work.
Myth 2: Change is slow.
All that is required of change is for people to change their mind about what they are doing and what they want in the world. Now, again, there are artifacts of that change that may take a while to show up, like certain behaviors or the results of new behaviors. The thing that we need to recognize and reinforce is the change of intention and the efforts in moving in a new direction.
Myth 3: Change is resisted.
People do not resist change, they resist being changed. Resistance comes from somewhere else, out of a person’s history, out of their experience with change, or out of their concern for their existence in the current or future state. Resistance comes from a natural sense of integrity, from a sense of valuing something in their current state. Ultimately, dealing with this is a collaborative effort between the people working for a change and those who are called upon to change.
Myth 4: Change can be managed.
Quite an interesting comment coming from one who works in change management, don’t you think? I have often called “change management” an oxymoron. I still believe that it is, in a very specific sense. In keeping with my beliefs about people, we can do things to facilitate a change in an organization that greatly enhance the probability of success and the pace of adoption. However, when you look at change as the simple process of every person individually changing their minds, that part remains outside of our control, and hence outside our ability to manage it. We can clearly only ask for change, being very clear about what we are trying to accomplish, what the benefits are, and provide tools and safety nets for people to try it out. The fact is that some people will change their minds and some people won’t. That we can never control. We can only present clear choices and ensure that the organization takes appropriate action based on these choices. These processes are what we consider to be the foundations of organization change.
Myth 5: Change is less complicated in new organizations.
Working with a new organization is often working with multiple changes. Because people come from many different organizations, they carry a large and varied set of experiences and attitudes. The have a lower level of shared language and experiences and lower level of shared culture than mature organizations. Creating the structures to facilitate change can require a great deal of planning and time in new organizations. The great thing about this situation is that at the same time it introduces complexity, it also introduces great opportunity. So, what do you believe about change? My beliefs are what guide my practice. Many change practices have been built on different beliefs about people and what is required to move organizations. The significance here is less what I believe and more what you believe. I present these myths as a catalyst for you to challenge your beliefs and get clear for yourself. There is power in clarity and direction. I encourage you to find it (if you haven’t already) and use it when you do.
The world we create is the manifestation of our beliefs.
The significance to all of us is that we act out our beliefs, consciously or unconsciously. In organization change, we create systems that make our beliefs visible through how we engage others, particularly in the language we use. A simple tool for driving personal change is to look back over your favorite or most recommended approaches and do a bit of “belief mining.” What beliefs are manifested there?
Be clear, be direct, and take action with integrity.