Not long ago I wrote an article entitled, "Why we get peeved," wherein I made the observation that there is a tendency by people to fail to notice changes as they occur, that it only becomes apparent over time. Coping with change has been an underlying part of my writings for a long time now, both in my management papers and in these columns. One of our most fundamental Bryce's Laws is, "If anything in life is constant, it is change." Throughout my walk through life, be it in companies, schools, nonprofit groups, neighborhoods, or wherever, it has always amazed me how people steadfastly refuse to recognize change and oppose adapting to it. Some actually become downright belligerent about it, unnecessarily I might add.
In an earlier paper, "Why We Resist Change," I noted the causes of change and why we resist it which, in a nutshell, is because we are creatures of habit, we tend to fear the unknown, and due to simple human emotion. The fact remains though, change is all around us, mostly small subtle changes that may not be noticeable to the human senses, but they are there nevertheless. Radical change is not very common, but it is perhaps the most offensive to us as it represents a significant variance to the status quo.
When we are presented with a change, large or small, we will either embrace it as something good for us, tolerate it, or reject it out of hand. When we reject a change, it is not necessarily because we truly understand the impact of the change, as much as it is based on our perceptions of it, right or wrong. In other words, despite the logical necessity of the change, it will not be embraced if it is perceived as something bad. This means some good old-fashioned salesmanship is necessary to make the change palatable to the consumer.
Before you can accept or reject a change, you must first be able to recognize it. As mentioned, most changes are not discernible to the human senses. If it is not detected it will be implemented unchallenged. However, if it is detected, we must apply our intellect and endeavor to understand it. If we recognize a change, apply our intellect, and come to a logical conclusion whether it is good or bad, then we should be comfortable with our decision. The problem though is that most people do not take the time to apply their intellect, and rely either on just their perceptions or the judgment of others whose opinion they trust, and this is where salesmanship or "spin doctors" come in handy. In other words, people are either too lazy or preoccupied to properly study a change.
If a change is substantial in size or complexity, it may be difficult for people to come to a logical conclusion regarding it, at which time the agent of change should reconsider how it is presented, such as breaking it down into smaller and more easier to digest pieces.
When it comes to implementing a change to the status quo, you must either change with the change, or the change must change with you. This means you must adapt and learn to cope with the change, or bend the rules to suit your needs. On more than one occasion I have seen changes to corporate information systems either readily embraced, fought and dismissed, or have had the change itself changed to suit a particular environment.
Despite all of the changes around us, be it cultural, technological, political, or whatever, change ultimately involves a personal change to the individual, and the question remains, "Do I really want to change?" Change can be made voluntarily, with a little persuasion, or jammed down our throats. Interestingly, this correlates to the degree of resistance to a change, from no resistance, to suspicion, to outright rebellion. This suggests resistance correlates to how it is presented to us.
Each of us handles change in our own way, but to flatly refuse to recognize and cope with change is called "denial" and an unrealistic approach for walking through life.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.