Resistance Is Futile. Change!

Change Management: Story War
Image by daveelf via Flickr

Have you ever become so overwhelmed by so many changes that you refuse to change any more?

Exposure to a lot of change over time, can create stress and result in one feeling overwhelmed and overloaded and unable to adapt to more changes. Understanding  the change process can help get oneself unstuck from resisting change and allow one to  take the steps toward adopting the changes as the new normal.

A Case of Too Much Change

The underperforming sales team I once worked with had been together for over five years. A couple of the salespeople had been in the same job for well over 10 years. They had enjoyed success up until this point. Something had changed and now they were in trouble. My job was to try to figure out why they were suddenly failing. 

I’m a performance improvement specialist. It is a very challenging and rewarding profession. I love to get to the real “why” or root cause reason a person or team is not performing to management’s expectations.  Most people would call me a business consultant. I like to think of myself as a “Gap Guru” or maybe a “Why? Guy”.

In this case, the sales team’s performance gap was mainly caused by changes accumulating. This resulted in the people becoming change saturated.  The straw that broke this team’s back was a significant change in their daily sales process.  If this had been the only change, they would have probably been resilient enough to deal with the change. Unfortunately, this team had experienced too many changes over several years with mergers and acquisitions and management changes.  The only real constant for this group had been the group members themselves.  The business world had changed all around them. Through it all, the people had remained the same and had attempted to wait out the change storm together. At some point, they had each decided that enough change had piled up and that they were not going to change any more.

By coming to terms with the situation and learning about their place in the change cycle, this sales team was able to restart the change process.  They quickly began to experience the benefits of adopting the new sales processes and adjusted the way they worked. Many of the salespeople showed signs of succeeding under the new performance measures.  They become the success model for others to follow.

Understanding the change process can help us deal more quickly with change. 

The Change Process

1) A change happens.

2) We deny or attempt to ignore the change.

3) We resist the change.

4) We experiment with the change.

5) We adapt, adopt, accept and commit to changing.

6) We change.

Changes in the situation can cause us to slip backwards in the process at any time.  Just when we think we have accepted and adapted to a change, we may find ourselves back in denial or resistance. 

Processing Changes

Knowing where one is in the change cycle is critical if one wishes to actually change.  Change is hard.  It takes hard work and support.

Talking openly about how one feels about a change is helpful in moving one through the change cycle. Having the support of one’s leaders and those around you, can also speed the change process.

Once the sales team began to move from resistance into experimentation, they quickly started to feel like the benefits of the change outweighed the negatives. These positive feelings helped to propel them forward in the change cycle.They said goodbye to the “old way” of doing things and accepted and adopted the “new way” of doing their jobs.  It wasn’t easy, but they knew that it was necessary and their newly changed behaviors and attitudes resulted in sales increases.

Adopt a Change

Accept, adopt, adapt and commit to change.  Our ability to change is what keeps us from becoming extinct dinosaurs.

Where are you in the change cycle when you think about your most important changes that you are attempting to make?  What do you need to do to move forward in the change cycle?

Resistance is futile.  Change is inevitable.  Our new normal is to always be changing at an ever-increasing rate.

Learning to recognize your normal reactions to changes and how you tend to best deal with change can help you succeed in changing.  Change is not easy, but it is often necessary. If you get stuck,  you can always call a gap guru like me… for a change.

A Question of What If…?

the art of possibility

Image by debaird™ via Flickr

Sometimes life’s really BIG questions are deceptively short. ” What if…?” is to questions what nitroglycerin is to explosives.  Such a little question can pack a wallop. Wisely asked, “What if…?” can lead to lands of unlimited possibilities and new discovery. When used carelessly, “What if…?” is potentially devastating. 

What If…? Warnings

“What if…?” must be treated with respect.  Whenever it is uttered, a mental warning siren should wail in one’s head followed by this automatic announcement.  “Warning. The following what if question has the potential to lead you to unforseen consequences. Proceed with extreme caution!”

What If I Push This?

As a naturally curious child, “What if…?” was both a friend and a foe to my experiential education and my family’s harmony.  I remember the family vacation when I was 9 or 10 years-old and we had rented a summer cabin on a beautiful lake in Michigan.  Due to the remote location, my mother had packed a week’s worth of groceries and had carefully stocked the refrigerator/freezer to capacity.

Early on our first evening, I decided to search out a snack and there at my eye level was a bright red button on the inside of the refrigerator.  Red buttons have a way of demanding attention.  I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it might as well have been labeled, “What if?”  My young mind was flooded with natural curiosity of what could happen if I pushed this enticing red button? What if…?

Defrosting our week’s worth of food and receiving a physical, posterior reminder from my irate father, to ask permission before pressing any buttons, was the outcome of my surrender to what if. I’ve since learned that like the defrost cycle of this particular refrigerator freezer, once the red  what if button is pressed, sometimes there is no going back. 

What if…? can lead to discovery of new possibilities. Edison, Ford, Hawkins, Galileo, Gates all benefitted from “What if…?” The possibilities are endless when attached to “What if…?” The challenge is in learning to tell the difference between positive and negative what if questions.

The Darker Side of What if…?

I invest a rather large amount of my monthly income to feed fear-driven what if questions.

Insurance-What if I die? What if I have an accident? What if my house burns down? What if there’s an earthquake? What if I get sick?  A whole industry that’s dedicated to reducing the risk of What ifs?

Vitamins-What if I don’t take them?

Exercise-What if I don’t exercise?

Fear of the unknown, of losing control, of remote possibilities, and more, can cause us to respond and behave particular ways in answer to our what if questions.

What If It’s Sinfully Enticing?

Given the success of the infamous Eden apple experiment (Eve thought, “What if I take a bit?”), other more subtly ruinous What if..? questions are constantly being crafted by a special division of Satan’s research and development demons. What if, has proven to be quite effective as sin’s door bell.

“What if I invited that bathing beauty Bathsheba up to my kingly pad?” asked David.

“What if I convinced the German people that their problems are the Jew’s fault?” wondered Adolf Hitler.

“What if I typed XXX in Google?” asked too many curious Christians.

“What if I had three drinks instead of just one?” asked the soon to be alcoholic.

“What if I have sex with my boyfriend?” asked the teen mom in-waiting.

“What if no one would ever know?” questioned the now inmate.

“What if I fail?” asked the person who never achieved his purpose or potential.

“What if God is a myth?” asked the lost soul.

High five’s in Hell all around at the latest devilishly effective,”What if…?”

Managing the Risks of What If?

Life is a risky business.  Nothing is 100% safe. We either choose to ignore obvious and potential risks of our answers to what if questions, or we decide to expect, manage and lower the risks. As a pilot, one learns to accept a certain amount of risk, but tries to reduce other potential risks.  The way we do it is by using a system called Operational Risk Management (ORM).

The three main ORM principles are:

1) Don’t accept unnecessary risks.

2) Make decisions about risks.

3) Only accept risks when the benefits outweigh the costs.

Wise pilots follow a six step systematic risk evaluation process before and during every flight.

Dale Carnegie had a simple way of dealing with fear-based what if questions. He said,

“First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.”

What if…?

What if you asked more positive what if questions that lead you to explore your full potential?

What if you thought about the risks and potential rewards before you acted?

What if you accept your risks when the benefits outweigh the risks?

What if you took no council from our irrational fears?

What if you were no longer afraid of failure and of what other people might think of you?

What if you tried?

What if…?

Super Sunday

Bread and Circuses (album)

Image via Wikipedia

The much hyped, made for TV sporting spectacle in Texas this weekend, reminds me of a quote from 1st Century AD Roman poet, Juvenal. He wrote in his Satire X:

 “Give them bread and circuses and the they (citizens) will never revolt.” 

As I read the troubling headlines both domestically and abroad,  I fear far too many of us have our loaf and ticket in hand.

Please pass me the bread bowl and dip, it’s almost kickoff time.

Please pray for our world and our leaders for wisdom and peace.

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