Change and our Comfort Zones

May 26th, 2015 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »



Change Happens


Change, like another entity that goes with the word “happen”, happens. We as human beings are affected by change daily. As someone who has been working for nearly three decades, I have seen a lot of change both in my chosen industry and in the world itself, especially the technical world.


As a personal example regarding technical changes, I wrote my bachelor’s honors thesis on the college’s mainframe word processing system, which took learning a whole new computer language just for that one paper. My master’s thesis was written on my old manual typewriter that skipped spaces if you backspaced to correct mistakes. I had a commodore computer in the 90s and one of those funky green iMacs a decade or so later… As a teacher I used a mimeograph (google this, if you want) for several years before photocopying was done. Now I have a desk that has a camera on it and there is no overhead projector to be found at the university where I teach.


Each change I have experienced over the years has not been easy for me, but to remain part of the mainstream of my profession I have needed to move on, I have needed to embrace the new ideas and then learn how to use those new ideas to develop the skills required to carry out and make the changes and then finally I have then had to make plans for further positive change. Change is on-going. It is fluid. It happens, with our without my approval.


Nobody likes to change


The reason I am thinking about change today is because of a couple of conversations I have had recently, and because of the fact that my own life has changed a lot in the past few years. Thus, this past weekend I have been thinking out change.


My friend said this weekend, “nobody wants to change”. He is pretty much right, but does that mean we, as leaders, don’t talk about change, or do we find a way to engage those stakeholders in thinking positively about change? According to Kotter’s 8-step model of change (see the photo with the books), one of the first things that needs to be done is to establish some sort of sense of urgency, a need for the change. Let’s put this thought for the moment aside and consider when to change.


When is the best time to effect change


Much energy is expended in order to bring about any change. In fact, the energy expended for any change can be seen as a bell curve (see figure 2). But the problem lies in the fact that if you want to bring about a change without expending a whole lot of energy, you need to change while you are still expending energy from the last change. Thus, it is best to start the change-ball in motion and just keep it going rather than starting and stopping all the time. Now, that’s a challenging idea!


Create Urgency


How do you get the people who will be effecting the change behind the idea? I guess that is where your personal leadership style comes into play. I have seen change processes that were well explained with logical reasoning, starting with the urgent need. Those changes went well, considering everything. But I have seen others that were not “sold” as urgent to the employees, and the change management was not well carried-out. A well thought out reasoning for the change that is clearly communicated to the stakeholders brings most people on board so that the change can be well executed. Finally, that’s where Figure 1 comes into this blog. The magic happens outside our comfort zones. I love the visual and give my friend, Jeff Spencer, the credit for it from his blog on Saturday. If change happens, I want to get into that river of change and go with its flow.


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