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No Way to Win, No Reason to Change

Change Management
No Way to Win, No Reason to Change

Chuck Coonradt – CEO, The Game of Work

Change Management is a complex topic. To address it properly, consider the typical personal reaction to the word “change”.

Typically there are a few “love it” responses, but “fear”, “concern” and “apprehension” are far more common. While some adventurous people may enjoy the challenge of new situations, the typical response is negative. Life’s message for most people is that change is fraught with peril, and that stability is more preferred and equals security and safety.

Yet the reality is that change occurs every day, mostly out of personal control. The challenge is to manage change at an ever-increasing pace. In the business world, the lack of “change management” has been blamed as the primary cause of enterprise project failure for the past two decades. Businesses face a significant challenge as the pace and scope of change in the corporate world accelerates.

But wait – can change really be “managed”? It is more appropriate (and realistic) to recognize that is the reaction to change, not the change itself, is what can be managed. Therefore, “change reaction management” is a more appropriate label than “change management”. Change reaction management is defined as “the strategy and activities for managing the human reaction to proposed change”.

Done well, the potentially negative fallout resulting from the change – people’s negative reactions and resistance to change – would be avoided, and the energy of the organization focused on implementing, not reacting to or resisting, the change. A logical focus, but given human nature and the history of change management to this point, unlikely.

However, it is possible to increase buy-in and create an internal motivator for accepting, adapting to, and even promoting the proposed change.

It’s not only possible, it’s obvious, if the Five Principles of Change are understood and the Five Principles of Scorekeeping applied.

Five Principles of Change

  1. Change is inevitable — Dr. George Odiorne, the father of management by objectives, said, “That which doesn’t change remains the same, and that which remains the same quickly becomes obsolete.” Change is necessary.

  2. Change is constant — Have you ever heard someone say, “The only thing that stays the same around here is the fact that they keep changing things”? Change is a force of life. Whether considering the decline of the dinosaurs millions of years ago or the companies that went bankrupt yesterday, life and business is filled with the obvious constancy of change.

  3. Change can be either good or bad — The perception of a proposed change depends to a large extent upon the source of the change, how much is understood about the change, as well as the degree of change that must be personally dealt with.

  4. All people view change egocentrically — Views of change are directly linked to the immediate perception of WIIFM, or “What’s in it for me?”. This is not selfish, it’s simply a normal response to change. Leveraging personal impact, or the perception thereof, is critical.

  5. People can choose how to deal with change — This is a revelation to most, in that the general reaction to change is not that people have a choice. While they may not have a choice about the change, they can certainly choose how to respond to it. “Change agents” can leverage this concept to ensure that the reaction to change, and the ensuing behavior, achieves the targeted goals.
Since change is always egocentric and the reaction/response to change is a choice, rather than a foregone conclusion, they provide the ingredients for steering people in the direction of change acceptance rather than resistance.

The Key to Resistance

When it comes right down to it, people resist change for one reason – fear. Fear is at the root of all resistance. Fear of loss, pain, or failure. People are afraid of losing in the “game” of life and work. A widespread, sometimes debilitating problem is simply that most workers don’t know how to “win”.

When people ask “How do I win?” and can’t come up with a clear answer, their conclusion is simple.

“Must be no way to win.” And that’s a big problem for the organization, since their next conclusion is...

“Why try? Why try when I can’t win?”

This is naturally followed by “Might as well quit.”

If they quit and leave, there’s a turnover and retraining problem. If they quit and stay, which most do, the result is simply a generally unmotivated, low-producing workforce that goes through the motions with little direction or commonality of purpose.

If you were to ask people at the end of the work day if they “won” today, most would give you a blank stare. They honestly don’t know, since they started the day without any understanding of how to win, and simply went about the “busy-ness” of work. Work is a guessing game to most people, and the messages conveyed by management are inconsistent at best, and conflicting at worst. Managers are no better off than front-line workers, since they don’t know how to win either.

The message from this confused and directionless state of affairs is rather obvious. Companies are not getting the job done when it comes to telling their employees, their managers and their executives how to win. Too many people, faced with too many challenges, coming to work every day without an answer, a goal or an objective.

This is everyday life at work – no way to win. It’s no wonder that people aren’t motivated to change. Improvement requires change (if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you got!) – if organizations want to improve, they must learn how to create an environment where people can win.

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