Change : Why Change

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"Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing". - Warren Bennis, Ph.D. On Becoming a Leader. Contact Don at

"Resistance to Change is a dead-end Street"

Today's business world is highly competitive. The way to survive is to reshape to the needs of a rapidly changing world. Resistance to change is a dead-end street...for you and the organization. Customers are not only demanding excellent service, they are also demanding more. If you do not supply it, your competitors will. Organizations are reshaping themselves to change quickly in order to meet the needs of their customers. The organization's top leaders know they cannot throw money at every problem, they need highly committed and flexible workers. As a leader, you need to emphasize action to make the change as quickly and smoothly as possible. Resistance is futile, as the Borg from Star Trek like to put it.

The Japanese have a term called "kaizen" which means continual improvement. This is a never ending quest to do better. Standing still allows your competitors to get ahead of you.

Change phases .....

Organizations go through four main changes throughout their growth :-

  • Formative Period This is when a new organization is just getting started. Although there is a founding vision - why the organization was started, there are no formal definitions. This is just as well because there are a lot of experimentation and innovation taking place. These changes of creativity and discovery are needed to overcome obstacles and accomplish breakthroughs.
  • Rapid Growth Period Direction and coordination are added to the organization to sustain growth and solidify gains. Change is focused on defining the purpose of the organization and on the mainstream business.
  • Mature Period The growth now levels off to the overall pace of the economy. Changes are needed to maintain established markets and assuring maximum gains are achieved.
  • Declining Period This is the rough ride. For many organizations it means downsizing and reorganization. Changes must include tough objectives and compassionate implementation. The goal is to get out of the old and into something new. Success in this period means that the four periods start over again.

For some organizations the four periods of growth come and go very rapidly, for others, it may take decades. Failure to follow-through with the needed changes in any of the four growth periods means the death of the organization.

Change Acceptance ....

Throughout these periods of changes ( which is just about all the time for good organizations ) leaders must concentrate on having their people go from change avoidance to change acceptance. Most worker's first reaction to change is to resist it. People get comfortable in doing things a certain way. This comfort provides them with the security that they are the masters of their environment. They fear that change could disrupt their lives by making them look like a fool by not being able to adapt and learn, make their jobs harder, loose a sense of control, etc. Leaders can help the change process by changing their attitude from avoidance into acceptance. This is accomplished by changing their avoidance questions and statements into acceptance questions:

  • Why ? -> What new opportunities will this provide ? When they ask "why," focus on the benefits that the change will provide them and the organization. Do NOT feel uncomfortable if you are feeling hesitation about the change are also human. By spelling out the benefits, you will not only comfort them, but help to convince yourself too.

  • How will this affect me ? -> What problems will this solve ? Anything that prevents something from being better is a problem. Let them know what the problem is and how they will be part of the solution.

  • We do not do it this way. -> What would it look like ? One of their first reactions is that it has never been done this way or it can't be done this them, provide plenty of explanations and compassion, and get your team to ask and answer questions.

  • When will this change be over so we can get back to work. -> How can I help ? Get them involved in implementing the change. Help them to become part of it.

  • Who is doing this to us ? -> Who can help us ? Focus on the challenges that must be overcome. Ensure that you enlist help from other departments and colleagues. 

Leading the Change ....

Martin Luther King did not say, "I have a very good plan," he shouted, "I have a dream!" You must provide passion and a strong sense of purpose of the change. Feelings are contagious. When someone around you is feeling blue, it brings you down somewhat. Likewise, when someone is passionate about something, it inspires you. Build the change so that others want to be part of it. When you give them part of it, also give them the authority and control to act upon it. Share the power so that they do not feel powerless. You want them to feel useful and enthusiastic. Make them feel needed, that the change could not happen without them !

Copyright © Don Clark, 1998.  Created May 11, 1997. Last update - July 8, 1997

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