Organisations don't change, people do

The fundamental truth about organisational change is that it occurs one person at a time, which means it’s as much about individuals breaking old habits and forming new ones (over time) as anything else, and we know how difficult that can be.

Our experience of organisational change over many years is that people don’t usually fear the actual change itself, as much as they fear the thought of change. Too many changes means a loss of:

These things often go unstated because they are not the sort of things we talk about. In addition we can feel somewhat inadequate if we compare our “insides” to other people’s “outsides” because they seem to be coping ok. It’s important to understand that each person deals with change in their own individual way.

We have found that people who cope best with organisational change have a clear understanding of what the changes are, why they are necessary, the expectations of them as individuals (and given the knowledge, skills and resources to meet those expectations) and an understanding of how the changes can impact on them mentally, emotionally, physically and behaviourally.

It’s useful to remember that in this day and age we are dealing with changes in our lives all the time. It wasn’t that long ago that we would have to go to the bank if we wanted to withdraw money.  Letters were sent by “snail mail”. We booked travel through an agent. Photos used to be in albums or on walls. Phones had to be connected to a land line. Most of us have coped with those changes just fine and adapted to the new ways of doing things. Each time we adapt to change, we build our “change muscle” which helps us to build change resilience.

In addition to having a clear understanding of the changes and our response to them, it is helpful to understand how we as humans form new habits when developing a new skill. David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model on the following page (Figure 1) shows making the change from the old to the new is anything but straight forward. It is a complex process that occurs over time. The irony is, organisations that try to fast forward change (understandably), inevitably take much longer to implement the change and pay a much higher price, if indeed they get there at all.

Of course knowing and doing are two different worlds. Talking about something is not the same as doing it. Having an understanding of the above will help you to negotiate the often difficult terrain of change without liquidating the asset (you) in the process.

I leave you with this thought to ponder – It’s not changing that takes time, it’s not changing, that takes time.

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