How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Change: It Doesn't Have To Be So Difficult
Guest articles > Change: It Doesn't Have To Be So Difficult
by: Sharon Drew Morgen
The old adage goes: no one likes change. But I believe that people enjoy change; they just don’t know how to change without disrupting their status quo.
That doesn’t need to be the case. Change can be easy, with little drama or trauma. We just need to know how.
Reasons why change is difficult
Why does change appear to be so difficult? Because our status quo seems set in concrete and we don’t know how to go about making changes unless we have some assurance that a new comfort will result.
The culture, rules, and environment that we currently live or work within is the result of many decisions that have been made, over a protracted time period, that continually create and maintain the status quo.
As a group or company, we start with some sort of vision, or belief, of who we are and what we want to achieve. Although some of this is verbally expressed, much of it is non-verbal. For example, I’m sure none of the founders of IBM verbalized a desire to represent “mainstream business” and to symbolize conventional professionals (remember the gray suits, white shirts, no facial hair, etc.?).
We then populate our environment to represent a look or a feel that we want to embody. We put policies in place to enable everyone who joins to adopt the same ethos and become part of our story. Obviously, any change that our companies make must also support our story. But outside of some rules and values laid down in our HR booklets, do we all consciously know the values and beliefs, rules and politics, relationships and vendor initiatives that consistently represent our status quo?
What, exactly, did we have to know or believe to get us where we are? What keeps it all in place? It’s not the rules, or the roles, or the values, or the initiatives. It’s some hard-to-define amalgam of it all – the system. And this mystery must be maintained each time a decision gets made to do something that will affect more than a small handful of people: individuals going through change must maintain their internal criteria – beliefs, values, norms, politics, dreams, history – while making a change, even if it’s the change that is sought after.
Acknowledging a problem that must be fixed
For some reason, when we, as sellers or coaches or managers or professionals, see an unresolved issue – either a problem, or an incomplete element that we believe needs resolution – we forget that the identified problem we want to fix is part of a complete system that has functioned ‘well’ for some period of time. When we see a problem our solution can resolve, we assume that we are needed, and that if we present or identify what we consider a solution, that the Other will know what to do.
But that’s not true. People and policies and relationships don’t change because something new is introduced into the system: indeed at the point something new is introduced, the elements we’ve defined as problematic go into homeostasis and protect the status quo. Remember that we’re working with a system here – one that has been static and has continually re-upped it's own internal processes to create consistency and comfort.
Whatever the change may be, no matter how small, before we’re ready to shift our status quo, we need to know that the change must match the criteria of what it’s replacing, or the new element will be rejected by the system.
That said, it is extremely difficult for an insider to take an unbiased look at the full range of systems that make up their status quo. Since little is explicit, it’s even difficult for insiders to understand the complexity of their current situation. Often the behaviors and decisions that were made through time and carried out daily through policies and people exist on the subconscious level. And yet, it’s just those hidden elements within the status quo that create the choices that make a brand unique.
The system we live in
A system, largely secret, unique, and idiosyncratic, continually makes choices that retain the status quo. These choices are based on unconscious data and past decisions.
How does a fish know the water is dirty? It doesn’t. Feels like home to them. How do we know we live in an outdated, or damaged, system? We don’t. Until or unless we find some way to disengage from the system to recognize those important elements that need to be managed prior to change taking place – whether it be a new piece of equipment, or a new program, or to add people, move office, or even change a bad habit while in a coaching program – we will do nothing. And, ‘nothing’ is a decision to allow the status quo to remain intact (As sellers we think the buyer is stalling, or seeking other vendors. In fact, they are trying to manage change before barreling ahead and making a mess.)
Before someone will change, before a company will choose a new vendor or product, they must discover all of the elements within their status quo that would need to be managed so that the change wouldn’t create disruption.
The job of sellers and coaches and supervisors is not to effect change, but to help people figure out all of the elements that must be managed to decide on and then support the change. Outsiders can’t see, nor can they significantly influence, all of the pieces that insiders need to assemble, to get agreement to adopt change.
There are ways that the ‘outsider’ can support the ‘insider’ to effect their necessary change.
Facilitative Questions are different from information-based questions. They use a sequential format to help the Other determine the elements that need to be addressed, shifted, or managed. Once it’s all defined the person/group can take a comprehensive look and make new decisions. But until then, no action can take place.
As outsiders, we are mistaken when we believe that we can enter a new system, understand needs and provide the right answers. It’s not about being right: either giving the right advice, or having the right product. What difference does it make that we’re right? How many bazillions of times have we been right, and there is no one there to listen? Change doesn't happen because of good information.
The time it takes buyers, learners, students, etc. to come up with their own answers is the length of the decision cycle.
Help change happen without internal disruption by using Facilitative Questions to help others recognize, align, and manage all of the internal elements that need to be addressed. Only then will they be able to change, and you'll be right there with them as part of their decision team.
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
Published here on: 22-Apr-07