2015 Incremental changes lead to lasting
New Year always brings with it new vibes and many of us decide to change a thing or two in our lives.
At surface level the idea of change sounds so appealing and invigorating but only if it was true we would embrace every change with intense eagerness and marvel at any results this anticipation brings…Alas that is not the reality of human nature. Humans innately resist change! We think we like change but in reality most people resist change yet like the idea of improvement.
I have based this article on the ‘Theory of Change Management’
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, “The best tool for leaders of change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then strategize around them.” The same principle applies to us when we make certain changes or set goals that require an internal change to achieve the desired result.
One approach to thinking about the disruptive nature of a change can be found in the three states of change. Prosci (Business Consultancy Model) uses the terms current state (what we do today), transition state (the process of change) and future state (how we will look after the change).
In the context of “incremental vs radical change” – we can ask ourselves the following questions:
- How big is the gap between the future state and the current state?
- How different is the future state from the current state?
- How much of a departure from the current state is the future state?
- Answering the questions above provides an invaluable data point when developing the right change management approach.
- Now think about a change you are working on right now – how would you describe the gap between the current state and the future state? Is it radical, or is it incremental?
According to research, no two changes will require exactly the same process or same level of change management. Even the activities and roles will change. Applying a “one-size-fits-all” approach is simply not appropriate. Change management must be scaled based on, among other things, whether the change is incremental or radical.
Resistance: understanding a phenomena that is natural to all of us
“The normal reaction to change is resistance.”
You can begin to appreciate why resistance to change is a normal and natural reaction to change. Even when individuals can align a change with their own self-interest and belief system, the uncertainty of success and fear of the unknown can block change and create resistance. The question, therefore, is not if we will encounter resistance to change, but rather how we will deal through the change process and manage that resistance.
We know that change creates anxiety and fear. My personal experience has raised my level of anxiety even anticipating a change that I often labelled as excitement!!!
The current state has tremendous holding power, and the possibility of losing what we have grown accustom to (and comfortable with) creates worry and anxiety. The very nature of pursuing the unknown creates fear about what lies ahead. This is the issue that people face when setting goals which require them to make radical changes within themselves or to their surroundings. The solution is in accepting the fact that change is inevitable and plan conscious changes in small increments. Radical actions although extremely suitable in some situations can bring about a rebellious response by your unconscious and instead of moving forward to achieve ones goal it can create stagnation. Hence New Years resolutions do not work past first few weeks of the year!
These physical and emotional reactions are powerful enough by themselves to create resistance to change. It is likely that each of us have experienced these reactions in our own lives, whether at work or at home. But there is more to resistance than our emotional response. From a change management perspective, we must examine the other drivers that influence the unconscious resistance to change.
Tactics to avoid Resistance:
- Flexibility: Change management is most effective when it is flexible and scaled to fit the particular change at hand. Set small steps that are easy to follow and make them a part of your normal activities. For example spend more time with family – set routine for 8 hours per week for simple quality fun time and make it count and be flexible to add different ways to enjoy this time together.
- Trust: Write out all the positive results that you will experience as a result of this change. Also write out all the negatives of the change for example what you will miss out. Then instead of being just positive let yourself be logical and write out what are the positives of this negative. For example the negative of exercise could have come up as tiredness afterwards, loss of time away from family, cumbersome commute to the gym, loss of self-image etc. The positive of tiredness is better sleep at night waking up refreshed, less need for alcohol and junk food saving loads of money that can be used for more fun activities with the family.
- Enjoy: Write out a list of things you enjoy doing, having, experiencing. Now associate each with the changes you wish to occur this year. Future pace yourself and visualize how each activity is even more enjoyable with this change. Your internal resistance will drop as you will see the benefit of this change made with simple small steps.
- Share: As humans we like to share our experiences with others and get positive feedback. You can share with friends the changes you are making and ask them to be a part of it or hold you accountable. This makes it even more important that you make small adjustments along the way and let your friends support you. Resistance drops when outside recognition and support is enhanced.
- You are onto something: When resistance comes you tell yourself that you are definitely progressing. This means that the change you are after is happening in small increments. It is important to remember that it is not a true limit it is only an imagined limit. Hence it is even more important to visualize the benefits of this change daily. For me it always helps when I write out actions to support my desired state and place on the mirror as a daily reminder till the new action becomes a habit.
- Ripple Effect: Who else is this change effecting? Considering the effects of the changes on others will also help you stay focused on making small changes daily. Write an outline of the benefits others will receive because of your actions. For example the research shows that Jumping on the treadmill or cross trainer for 30 minutes can blow off tension by increasing levels of “soothing” brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Exercise may actually work on a cellular level to reverse stress’s toll on our aging process, according to a 2010 study from the University of California—San Francisco. The researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes over a three-day period had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and inactive. (well I am sure the same applies to men! 🙂 )
In conclusion you are the only one who can decide whether the situation that you want to change requires a radical change or an incremental change. Both scenarios will produce resistance and if you prepare and plan to handle this resistance you will move pass it and you will achieve your outcomes for 2015. If you keep going forward you will get there!
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