Mention change to most people and they will quickly tell you they hate it closely followed by the often used phrase ‘nobody likes change’, however we all love change we just don’t realise it.
Sure, there are those out there who go against the vast majority and actively seek out change. They love the uncertainty, the unknown, and the unexpected. For the rest of us change is treated with the type of contempt normally reserved for that weird relative who never knows how to behave appropriately, and ignores personal boundaries by always seeming to be putting their nose into things that they have no right to.
So is it true that nobody likes change?
To answer this question, let’s exclude those rare adrenalin junkies who hate routine and are always looking for something different. Instead, let’s focus on the rest of us who answered with a passionate and fervent NO when asked if we like change. To explore the accuracy of this question we will dissect the human form from the outside in.
As a species, we are designed to live in a changing world. In the main, humans are born with arms and legs that help us move about and interact with our environment. We use these appendages to change and respond to environmental changes every minute of every day. We get up from the couch to get something from the fridge when we are hungry. When a mosquito bites we quickly swat at it, and if we sit still too long without changing our position our legs can ‘fall asleep’. We run from danger, fight to save ourselves, and build things with our hands to make our lives easier. Our largest organ, our skin, is designed to register changes in our environment, such as fluctuations in temperature, sending messages to our brains triggering us to respond by shivering. Our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch all help the body to recognise changes and respond to the impacts they have on us. It’s obvious, that physically, we are built for change and designed to respond to the things happening around us.
Given that our physical body needs change, our resistance to change must come from within; a psychological response to change. As humans we love our routines: coffee in the morning from our favourite cafe, read the papers on the way to work, sit at the same desk, sit in our favourite chairs and a thousand other little nuances we all own. The more we do something, the more it becomes ingrained within us eventually becoming a habit, making it more difficult for us to change. Given our fondness and attachment to our habits, we must indeed hate change.
But wait. What about the clothes you are wearing today, are they the same ones as yesterday? Have your dinners for the past week all been the same as the last? How is that hairstyle you had as a 12 year old working for you now? Have your favourite TV programs changed over the past five years or are you still just watching repeats? When faced with the opportunity to travel to Paris on an all expenses trip, do you decline because you would prefer to stay at home wearing your ill-fitting onesie you have had since you were twelve, watching repeats of Happy Days, and eating macaroni and cheese just like the good old days?
There is a good chance that you (hopefully!) answered no to all these questions. If we lived our lives like that, we would not be truly living, we would be merely existing (and living a pretty poor existence at that). As humans we need external stimulation and change to maintain our senses. One torture technique used by interrogators is sensory deprivation. People are put in solitary confinement with no access to changes in the environment, nothing to look at, no one to talk to and nothing to do. So one could conclude that we actually not only like change, we need it to exist and maintain our sanity.
Based on the above, maybe we need to rewrite the phase from being ‘nobody likes change’ to ‘nobody likes change they don’t control‘. Our resistance to change is tied to feeling the loss of control. Most of us have a fear of the unknown that change inherently brings, resulting in a lukewarm reception. The changes that are going to impact us the most are those that require us to change habits, behaviours and routines we have held dear. This is why when our bosses call a surprise meeting and outline their plans for changing the company – usually for the better – the majority respond with disapproval, fear and often anger. These feelings are natural reaction to a loss of control. When we feel we are being forced to accept changes we may not understand, we don’t want and that take us into the unknown, we resist. These feelings result in the majority of change programs failing to meet their objectives. There is not sufficient ownership and support to make the changes succeed.
To help change succeed those impacted must be able to feel a level of control and ownership in the process. We have shown that we all actively seek out and make changes daily so the answer to success must lie in how we choose to make a change. Most people approach personal changes in a logical way. They collect all of the available information to them and make a decision on what is the best way forward for them. If this works for changes we choose to make for ourselves then it makes sense that we should follow the same process for managing changes in others.
Our personal change management approach includes:
- identifying why we need to change
- visualising what the change will look like
- identifying what we need to change
- planning how we will make it happen
- provide ourselves encouragement and feedback along the way to keep ourselves on track
- monitor how our changes are going and make adjustments where required.
Here’s a simple example of how this works. Let’s say you want to change the colour of your lounge room. You decided you needed to change the colour because it is out of date. A quick trip to the hardware lets you visualise how the room will look through using the latest colour cards. You then decide what you will paint and go about planning and purchasing the paint, brushes and drop sheets. When you start painting you are likely to stop along the way and admire your work and also look for spots you missed and things you still need to do. Once you finish you will probably stand back and congratulate yourself on the success of your changes.
If you are tasked with making a change in the work place, use the same principles you would use when making a change for yourself and you will increase your chances of success considerably.
- Tell people why you are making changes
- Share the vision of where you are heading
- Make sure the impacted people have the skills and knowledge to make the changes
- Engage them in the planning process to ensure they share ownership of the changes
- Establish measures to monitor progress and provide feedback and celebrate the wins
- Review where the changes regularly to see where they need to be improved or altered
Remember we all love change, we just hate losing control as a result of the change.
© Gary Waldon and garywaldon.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gary Waldon and garywaldon.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.