Why is change so difficult?

Many people will tell you things about change that are true. Change is pain, be the change, change is a choice etc etc etc.  There are even bell curves that map your responses (denial, anger etc) as you undergo change. So in spite of all this why is change so difficult.

When you look at the habits of people today and compare them with a common change agenda you start to see a pattern.

  • We want performance / change is a performance blocker
  • We want to understand first then act  / change is risk and requires action before understanding
  • We want to change but you must see things our way (we are naturally programmed to react to a one-sided perspective) / change requires an open “both/and” perspective as a start
  • We think if we change our mind or feelings we change / but change is rooted in behaviour
  • Lets keep this positive / but change needs reality which is most often negative and painful

What we start to see is how functionally different change is to our normal way of life. These quite natural habits are rooted into our culture and our upbringing, and the way we function on a daily basis. So they are good and true. Just not when it comes to change. The processes and habits used to function in the world are the ones you need to let go of in order to change, that’s why it’s so hard. It can feel like self-betrayal at the deepest level. Sometimes you have to give up that which has served you so well to this point and that’s not really anything any sensible person would want to do.

So when I go into an organisation what I mostly get is yes we want to change but:

  • Don’t disrupt the performance
  • Help us understand what we must do (so we can think or feel we are in control, then have lots of meetings [and more meetings] about the change as a clever way of avoiding it)
  • Don’t ask us to be open to both sides (just make the change inside of our existing paradigms)
  • Don’t get too real here lets all keep it happy (anything painful or confrontational is not allowed)

These kind of requests that show a lack of real understanding of what it takes to change and helps entrench an anti-change sentiment.

So here is some good advice:

  • Stop trying to change everything all the time, its counter productive and destructive to regular business functioning (and often a desperate means to do the same thing differently which does not help at all)
  • Make sure the change is clearly defined, has a timeline and is measured regularly (behaviour /task mapped) as it proceeds and ends
  • Make sure you have a support structure for the people going through the change, its where your change will happen (or not)