When it comes to change, most everyone can relate to these sentiments: “I want to be better, but I don’t want to change what makes me comfortable.” “I’m all for change, just don’t make me alter my routines.” That’s the bald truth, though no one would say it just that way.
Things that make us comfortable in organizational settings include structure, history, personal and professional relationships, knowing the rules and the shortcuts, having some influence in things that matter to us. When change is required, we like to keep these things stable.
This, of course, sets up all kinds of conflict because it is often history and structure that have led to an unsustainable future. Likewise, relationships help us deal with change because we have someone to talk to. Secret fears are often shared confidentially between friends. When the relationships are disrupted, we get anxious because we don’t know who to trust or what might be expected of us in new partnerships.
This desire to change without changing reveals a lack of self-confidence or a distrust of either the change agent or the direction of the change. Admittedly, this is an oversimplification, but these are common factors in virtually all change efforts.
When structure, systems, procedures, reporting relationships, or other changes are proposed to an organization, the myriad disruptions of individual comforts creates a cacophony of protest that is difficult to hear, much less respond to effectively.
Leadership is essential.
A leader’s first challenge is to understand the current problem and its cause(s), the movement of the marketplace and what it portends for the future, and the resources available to the organization to correct course and adapt to the changing landscape.
None of this is easy in a quiet moment; it becomes a Herculean challenge when the environment is turbulent and resistance is rife. A leader’s ability to think critically, make important decisions, communicate a coherent and consistent message, model the change, and remain steadfast in the mission will determine, to a great degree, the success of the effort.
Remember: “Change is great for the other guy, just leave me alone.”