Courtesy of Google

Change. No-one likes it.  They don’t like change at home so why should they like change at work?  As consultants our job is to embrace change to try and persuade people that somehow “change is good”.  When the administrators come in to a failing company I very much doubt they explain to staff that “change is good” or ask people to embrace the opportunity of change.  Change brings doubt. It brings uncertainty and it brings fear.

Businesses change because they have to.  They face a threat that puts the status quo at risk.  But there is always a tendency to create another status quo.  Another state in which change is neither welcomed nor necessary.  It’s within our DNA to avoid change; change brings threat.  So we talk about transformation.  A lovely metaphysical world that suggests we’ll all “transform” from caterpillars into butterflies.  BUT.  It. ain’t. like. that.

Transformation is change.  It’s about moving from one state of being to another.  Or perhaps its about a continuous state of flux.  Once again people don’t like it.  Now from this point forth to close out this post I could simply file a load of links from the HBR.  They like talking about change.  The ins and outs of change and the ups and downs.

I’m old enough to remember the old grim days of “change management” when what that meant was working through the complexities of downsizing or destroying a department.  Where it really really meant putting people out of work.  In those days change meant change.  “if you want to change the people, change the people”.  But transformation is a beautiful process right?  Where we climb into our transformational cocoons and a few months later emerge with beautiful digital wings. Not always.

So when it comes to change and people not liking it the reality is that what people don’t like is losing control.  Control of their lives.  Where the ability to influence and shape the future is ripped from your hands by a loss of skill, autonomy or authority.  It’s here where change is the most painful and avoided.  Change programmes however they are labelled take the status quo from people/employees and tear it up to create a new one.  Those on the inside are fearful for themselves even with knowledge.  Those on the outside simply have no idea what’s coming.

The beauty of transformation as portrayed today is that it describes the move to a new way of being; a new way of working as opposed to a lurch from one state to another.  That once the transition from the old way to the new way has been made then no more disruptive, juddering changes need to be made.  It’s an attractive sell.  A compelling one if we can make it real as agents of change (insert winking smiley here).    When an organisation sniffs the wind and senses that it is time to make the change before the wind switches direction then opportunities really do abound.  When the storm is upon us then people fall overboard. Ensuring we can take control of the change before it takes control of us are fundamental to how we deal with it.

The lessons and advice from the years of hard change management apply now as they did then. Ensure that the people impacted by the change the organisation is pursuing are able to be part of it.  The opportunities for engagement and development are so much greater these days.  In the days of downsizing change was done to other people.  Nowadays we can do it to ourselves in the confidence that it will work out well for us all.  That with the right guidance and training we can, ourselves, transform into these beautiful butterflies.  All agile and nimble.  Supping on the nectar of the next disruptive innovation.

[stextbox id=”black”]We all walk our own paths of personal transformation. The concept of change and change management fascinates me.  In my mind engaging with people is the number 1 critical success factor in any project, programme or transformation exercise.  Would love to hear the views of others[/stextbox]