What do we know about change?

When dealing change, three things are immediately clear:
* Change is inevitable.  With humor and to make the point Robert Gallagher quipped, “Change is inevitable except from a vending machine.”

* Change is exhausting. There may be a very good reason for this. When doing familiar and routine things, we use a part of the brain that requires minimal attention and low energy; to do something new and different we use a different part that requires concentration and high energy.  In other words, change can be literally exhausting.

* People resist change.  Perhaps more accurately and as oft observed, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”

Keeping these three points in mind can help guide our approach to change.   John Kotter, the Harvard professor who spent a lifetime studying organizational change, observes that leaders are responsible for two critical aspects in the change process.  They “prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.”   For change to be successful, both aspects – preparation and coping – are required.  Change happens, he says, in eight stages but more than half of change initiatives fail in stage one – creating a sense of urgency.  How do we do that?

One approach is often based on the model “Analyze-Think-Change.”  Although speaking to our rational side, this alone is not enough.  We must also feel it.  Change occurs when we feel that what we are currently doing is “totally unacceptable.”  This feeling is triggered by “seeing”.  Dan Heath calls this “See-Feel-Change.”  When we see the change needed, we feel the change and change occurs.  For the change to happen, who needs to see and feel?

It is not just what we, as leaders, see and feel.  Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken remind us that what “motivates you doesn’t motivate most of your employees” and suggest that you’re “better off letting them write their own story.” As Joseph Isern and Caroline Pung report, only 30% of change initiatives are successful.  The question stares us in the face, what do we need to do differently to create positive, sustainable change?

In what better ways can you prepare for change and help others to cope with the change?