Change Vs Choice

Perspectives > Change Management & Transformation

‘Change is inevitable.’

‘The only constant [in life] is change.’

These aphorisms have transformed from penetrating insights into banal clichés over the years. The question is, if change is so constant, why aren’t we used to it yet? Why is it so difficult for most of us to adapt and adjust to changing circumstances?

It’s simple – we’re human, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably an adult human. Our minds are plastic and elastic when we’re growing up. We absorb new information and experiences, learn and grow, expand our horizons and face the unknown with an attitude of curiosity. Adulthood is typically when we settle down, embrace routine and value sameness and certainty. When change comes, we view it with suspicion and resentment.

Imagine, then, that there are thousands of people, all adults, mostly ‘settled’ in this way, who encounter change together. Their individual feelings of resistance entangle and compound each other. Now imagine that all these people are the people who work at your company. See where this is going?

Choose to React – or Proact

Humans may be wired to settle down, but we’re also an astonishingly adaptable species. We’ve colonized the entire planet. People live in the most inhospitable environments, from scorching heat to freezing cold. The human spirit has not been quashed by unimaginable cruelty, repression, and natural disasters. Even as our very existence is threatened by climate change and environmental degradation, people around the world are doing their utmost to ward off threats and find solutions.

We’re reacting – or proacting – positively, to change.

This is transformation. This is a choice.

We could, collectively, accept our fate and wait patiently for the end. But our innate sense of survival makes us strive to improve, to alter the way we perceive the changing world around us and respond to it.

It’s the same in business. Change is inevitable in the business environment. Factors like globalization, technology adoption, geopolitics and climate change affect every company. The continued existence of a small firm may be threatened by changing consumer tastes. But businesses that choose to transform can stay sharp, agile, contemporary and resilient in nearly all circumstances.

Choose to Be Skilled

Words are easy. Millions of PowerPoint slides talk about ‘embracing transformation’. Doing it is far tougher, and as with nearly everything else, natural talent is rare. The good news is, transformation is a skill that can be acquired with systematic planning, training, and practice, practice, practice. In business speak, change management is a competency in itself.

It starts with the determination to change our attitude. If we begin from a position of fear (‘What if we fail?’), odds are we won’t get very far. That’s not to say that we should ignore the risks – rather, our perspective needs to be one of informed curiosity. Learning by trying and doing helps leaders and teams to stay focused and energized, take failures in their stride, and keep going until they achieve their goals.

Transformation is, by definition, dramatic. Incremental changes may be too slow and your competition may overtake you. In nearly every industry today, new players, enabled by technology and emboldened by globalization, are entering the market. Competition is fierce. Covid-19 has, perhaps irrevocably, changed people’s attitude to the traditional office model. The Great Resignation phenomenon, triggered by the pandemic, has yielded whole libraries of analysis. Employees and customers expect different things from companies now – and many companies, with the inertia of years of sameness, are struggling to deliver.

Newton’s First Law of Business

A body at rest tends to remain at rest… unless acted upon by an external, unequal force. This is only true in the physical world. In the business world, the law is slightly different. Businesses at rest tend to remain at rest – until they choose not to.

In this VUCA world, external, unequal forces are pushing and pulling at companies all the time. There’s wisdom in looking forward and preparing today for the challenges of tomorrow. Companies with imagination, curiosity and the ability to redesign their ways of working will get a headstart by making the choice to transform themselves before they are compelled to.

COD’s Change Management & Transformation practice uses people-oriented approaches to guide your business through the most challenging enterprise-level transformations. Strategic, creative and flexible, we work with you to transform your business, handle change with confidence, and achieve lasting success.

Connect with us today.