An Article by Joey Ng
Evolve, innovate, expand, advance, learn, transform, modify, develop, revolution, creativity,
be different, alter, restructure, paradigm shift, growth, progress, invent, reform… just some
of the many terms we read and hear everyday. As different as they are, they are connected
by a common denominator, an underlying constant. And the constant is – change.
What is change?
Change is to become different. As long as the current state is not the same as the origin,
change has taken place. Change can happen to everything, and change, can happen at
anytime. Everything around us is relative. A matter per se can stay constant but when the
environment changes, so will the matter. Remember the good old days of pagers?
This brings us to the next question – Why is there a need to change?
When there is change, there will be obsolescence and anything can be obsolete. Function,
system, technologies, style, organization and people are not spared from it if they do not
We need to change to survive (do enough) or to excel (do well).
The bare minimum to survival is to maintain relevance ,
to do just enough. A person who wishes to just survive
will eat what is enough for his body to function. A
company that is aiming for survival will do just enough
to not turn red.
If we were to parallel the mindset of survival to Jack
Welch’s idea of differentiation
(http://www.welchway.com/Principles/Differentiation.aspx), one will do just enough to not be
in the bottom 10%. Human, as a resource, changes when learning and development takes
‘If we focus on
result, we will
If we focus on
will get result.’
place. We change through acquisition of knowledge and development of skill. The key
difference between changing to survive and changing to excel is attitude. If one’s attitude is
skewed towards survival, one will develop just enough to get by. If one wants to do well,
one will do more than what is required. Let’s not forget, just like the pager, if one remains
constant and no development take place, over time, one will become obsolete too. On this
same note, whether an organization do enough or do well is very much dependent on the
attitude of its most vital resource – its workforce.
If we keep doing the same way, we will get the same result. If
excelling is the name of the game, we will need to change the
way, be it system, method or process, to achieve better result.
Results in this context can refer to greater output, or achieving
the same output with lesser effort or both!
We need to change to survive. If no change takes places, we will
become obsolete. Just like the dinosaurs, if an organization does
not change, it dies.
However, is change all that easy? Change is often met with resistance.
Why do people resist change?
Here is a list of reasons why change is often opposed:
1) They do not see the need to.
a. Not able to see the benefits, which are mostly long term.
b. Do not see the importance. No understanding of what they are changing to or for.
2) Comfortable with current status, way of working –
3) The change is really a bad idea!
a. There is just no point in changing – change for the sake of changing.
4) Difficulty in letting go of the old.
a. The old works! It is proven.
b. Emotional attachment as a result of heavy investment (time, effort, commitment).
5) Perceived negativity attached to change.
6) No or low confident in handling change.
7) Human are naturally built to resist change.
a. One section of our brain, the basal ganglia or ‘habit centre’, has 2 parts. One part
is for routine work, the other is only active when taking in new information. Using
the routine portion makes the brain feels comforting and good, thus, human have
a natural tendency to process any task by diverting it to that side of the brain.
Case in check, one always seeks the most familiar method when approaching
any task, even a new task. However, when one need to learn something new,
when change happens, the brain will need to draw out more energy to attend to
it, leading to discomfort.
b. A second problem with something new is
that human brains learn to react to errors
– the difference between expectations
and actual – and when we detect an error
our brain emits a strong signal which uses
a lot of brain energy.
Using extra brain energy for processing
something new or when we mentally detect an error, actually hurts in our brain. It
seems quite human to prefer what is pleasant and avoid the painful; at the very
least we can feel comfortable that resistance to change is natural rather than a
particular person’s personality disorder.
It is interesting how we human sub-consciously resist change. It is also interesting how,
without much thought, the word ‘adapt’ is toss into the mix every time we encounter the
word ‘change’. When one is adapting to change, one is undergoing a process. The process
of adaptation can be very challenging; however, if ‘sold’ correctly, it will help facilitate the
So, how does one ‘sell’ change?
But before one sell change, one needs to understand change as a system, change as a
process. Change is a process, not an event. Change does not happen at the blink of an
eye, there is a series of happenings before the end state is met, and the cycle continues.
Changes take place gradually and subtlety, for example, before day turns to night, day light
will start to dim, or, before the market crashes, tell-tale signs will begin appearing. The
challenge in approaching change is when one is unable to see the entire system of change,
but just snap shot of the tell-tale signs and react to it. The following line, taken from the
book 5th Discipline, explains – ‘Many of times, we react to changes without thinking about
any underlying assumptions, the message the changes is bringing out.’ It is interesting the
word ‘react’ is used instead of ‘respond’. Theoretically, both words have very similar
definition, however, in the context of change, both implies totally different meaning.
Let’s use a situation to explain the difference. Whenever the
pipe leaks, we react by either plastering over the leak, or we
change the pipe. A respond will be to understand the reason
why the pipe leaks and remedy it. The respond in this case
could be to decrease the water pressure or, to remove the
entire water system altogether. In other words, reacting is
short term and responding is long term. If one keeps reacting
to changes, one will always be plugging the hole.
When one develops an understanding of change as a process and not an event, he will be
better equipped to sell change, even to himself!
Going back to the question, ‘How does one ‘sell’ change?’ here are some ways that can
facilitate the change process:
1) Give people a reason to change, tell them what they are changing for and why the need
for change. When you change what you believe, you change what you do.
2) Sell the benefits. Focus on the positives to shift away from the negativities usually
attached to change.
3) Create and celebrate small wins. These make progress vivid and will encourage the
‘changee’ to take the next step.
4) Provide a structure, in other words, ‘Change Management’. Now, ‘Change
Management’ and ‘managing change’ are two different ball game – First, ‘managing
change’ refers to how one adapts and manage change when it happens, it could include
a plan. For example, midway through a picnic, it started to rain, and we manage the
change in weather by moving the set-up indoor, which was planned for. Next, ‘Change
Management’ requires a step by step process, starting with identifying what needed to
be changed, what is the desired outcome, how to go about reaching the outcome and
what post-change actions. These are the basic fundamentals of various ‘Change
Management’ model out in the market.
To change or not to change, it all depends on
us. Any change in process, system, function
and technology are initiated by people. We
can even dictate change in natural ecology
system, like climate and food chain. If we
don’t change the way we fish shark, it is just
a matter of time before they become extinct.
An organization will only change if the team
change, the team will only change when the members change, the member will only
change if he wants to change. If we don’t
change, it is just a matter of time before we
or our organization becomes extinct.
Change is here to stay.