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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How Do You Build Change into Your Organization’s Culture?



The complexity of the global marketplace and technology forces everyone to change practices or behaviors every few months. At the same time, we are indirectly trained to resist. Throughout our lives, we have been told how difficult it is for people to change. If you tell someone something enough times, even if it is a lie, they begin to believe it.

However, if you look at our lives from another perspective, you will see that we are designed to constantly change. Change is built into our lifestyles. In the simplest form, we change our
clothes everyday. In fact, many people would frown upon someone who wore the same clothes everyday. Furthermore, many people take great pleasure picking out a new outfit to wear each day. If change were difficult, we would resist the idea of finding something new to wear. In addition, people change their hairstyles. Some even change hair color.

From a biological perspective, our cells are changing everyday. Over a 7-year period, every cell in our body has been replaced. Therefore, change has been built into our DNA.

The difference is new clothes serve as a tool to foster change. And we have a social construct that has negative consequences for those who refuse to change their clothes frequently. When it comes to our bodies, change is built into our biological structure. Our bodies have a continuous process for disposing of the old and renewing us. Except, when it comes to changing our behaviors and thought processes, we suffer the flat world syndrome. If we go back 600 years, the experts said the world was flat. No one questioned it and the belief became common sense. In the 21st Century, someone said it is difficult for people to change and no one questioned it. Resistance to change is now considered reality.

With that said, if you would like to build change and transformation into your company’s culture, you have to think like Christopher Columbus. To create this new possibility, you have to acknowledge where every one is in their view of themselves and the world. If you tell people to transform, they will prove how difficult or impossible it is to do so. On the other hand, if you provide people with a new perspective and tools to bridge the gap between where they are and where you would like them to go, it becomes possible.

While this article serves as an alternative perspective, many people will say ‘so what. My survival depends on what I can do today.’ This may be true. And this may be the same conversation people had in 1800 when the US was transforming from an agricultural society to an industrial society. Those who resisted became less relevant in the job market and may have found it difficult to find employment. 

Therefore, it is important for one to understand why they would use resistance as a means of survival. Resistance can derail progress. In some cases, resistance is a sign of fear. Most would say the fear of the unknown. I say that is a myth. People know what they fear. They simply refuse to deal with it. For example, when a specific task is outsourced overseas, the person with the expertise will have to develop new skills to remain relevant. However, the person may be afraid they will not be as good in the new skill. In the beginning, they may look bad as they develop the new skill. As a result, in their mind, it is better to make outsourcing the wrong thing to do. If they can be right about their position and outsourcing is avoided, they get to be right and do not have to go through the potential embarrassment of looking bad as they develop new skills. They will have survived in their existing job.

When a person can confront that fear in an honest and direct fashion, they will have a chance to let go of it. As long as they avoid confronting the fear, it will own them. With that in mind, organizations need to have positive dialogue internally. The dialogue should not only be about change initiatives, it should be about possible changes on the horizon. That way people are prepared and can constantly develop themselves well in advance.

Confronting fear is a tool that makes change more manageable. While there are many other effective tools, orchestrating change without tools, can appear to be a mandate and people will go into resist mode. As you can see, the more things change the more things stay the same. If you want to transform people’s experience of change, provide them with tools that are built into the enterprise’s culture.     

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know. 




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