The irony of change

We live in a world of change.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The world, IS, a place of continuous change. In the work place we will experiences changes in our job responsibility, our manager, and even the company ownership throughout our career. So what’s with all the resistance to change?

To change something in our lives means we have to change ourselves.
During our lives, we learn behaviors, beliefs, and skills. Doing something outside of these boundaries isn’t necessarily difficult, but it requires an effort to change ourselves. Here’s an example. A few months ago, I asked my mother why she still pays for a house phone each month. She doesn’t use it. All the calls I get from her and the ones I place to her are via her mobile phone. The house phone is just something that has always been there for her. In behavior, she’s already changed to a mobile-only life style. But in in her mind she has not changed.

Another example. I’ve talked to several managers and executives at work about steps and approvals in the software development process. Every one of them has acknowledged the things I suggest make sense and would make good improvements. But acknowledging something and doing something to facilitate change are two different things. I wasn’t successful in getting them to realize that the changed I referenced meant that they needed to change themselves.

The irony of change is that whoever is in charge isn’t really changing.
Why do I say this? As managers, workers (even parents) we seem to gravitate towards doing it differently when we are in charge of making a decision. Think about your experiences. When a new VP is hired or manager assigned to a unit, they spend the first month or two assessing their situation of people and responsibility. Then they make changes. It’s a way to leave their mark and to get things setup their way. Maintaining the status quo isn’t why they were hired.

But is leaving their mark really just doing it the way they know how or by the rules they have learned in the past? You bet it is. So while the organization undergoes a change of direction, processes, or reporting structure the person making the change is really just doing it the way they know how. That’s the irony of change.

So what?
My learning is that change is relative to the individual. Everyone looks at a situation with their set own set of lenses and judges change based on what they consider normal. This is useful in business because it helps managers put perspective on change within their organizations. Knowing the background and skills of the people effected by a potential change will help the assessment of the overall impact of the change. Knowing the background and skills of the people effected by a potential change may also help management to work-in elements of the change that are part of the beliefs and learning of those affected. The could help to make the change easier.

What have you learned about change in your career?