Dynamics of Change
Post an APA format paper that explains
- Why is it important for individuals and organizations to change?
- What does deep change mean to you?
- Identify three issues that resonated with you from your readings this week, and then state why each issue was important for your understanding of change The three issues that resonated with me are listed below along with the information about each out of the chapter.
- Be sure to support the work with specific citations from the Learning Resource listed at the bottom of this page and any additional sources
Challenge Your Normal Assumptions
The process of leading deep change violates the assumptions that normally guide our interactions with others. Thus, simply telling people about that process will not show them why it works—the explanation just bounces off of their strongly held normal assumptions. Deep change begins with a state of mind. When I teach deep change, I no longer try to explain. Instead, I put people through experiences that cause them to challenge their own assumptions.
For example, I sometimes use a simple role-play to show that resistance to the ideas of deep change is not limited to corporate managers. Two volunteers play spouses who have just returned from their honeymoon. After breakfast, the “wife” leans back and lights up a cigarette. The “husband” is concerned about her smoking but has never raised the issue. He decides that he can no longer suppress his concern. I ask him to begin a conversation with his beloved. The objective is to get her to quit smoking.
The dynamics are predictable. The husband tells the wife that her smoking is a problem. She grows defensive and angry. He points out the scientific link between smoking and cancer. She rebuffs this argument. Then he suggests that their marriage may not survive if she continues to smoke. She usually agrees that the marriage might not survive. The intervention fails. This pattern is repeated nearly every time the simulation is run.
Denial Leads to Slow Death
The behavior of those officers was not surprising. We all tend to be just like them. When someone suggests that we play a role in creating a problem and might need to change, we often respond by doing what the officers did: we practice denial.
Denial is a normal reaction. We often resort to denial when we are presented with painful information about ourselves, especially when the information suggests that we need to make a deep change.
It is important to understand denial because it often leads to the slow death of organizations and individuals. When we practice denial, we work on the wrong things and ignore signs that our strategies are ineffective. Like Bill in the last chapter, we work hard, but the underlying problem tends to grow worse while we become increasingly discouraged. This leads to hopelessness. The people in the organization begin to disengage from the organizational good to pursue their own good. Conflicts intensify and more problems surface, eventually reaching a tipping point. The process of slow death becomes fast death.
I seldom visit an organization free from some form of slow death. Because slow death is so common, it is crucial that we understand the concept and learn how we can make a difference from within a normal, slowly dying system.
When I think of slow death, I think of something I saw while visiting a company. I was walking down a long hallway in a room where hundreds of people were working. The place felt lifeless—people seemed reluctant to be there, spoke in low tones, and moved slowly, as if they were dragging heavy weights behind them. My companion seemed to read my mind as she remarked, “Here we house the legions of the walking dead.”
It is not unusual to find people who are not engaged in their work, who feel meaningless and hopeless. In the words of Thoreau, they are living lives of “quiet desperation.” Quiet desperation is one of the symptoms of slow death that many people recognize. When I share this image of the walking dead, people commonly say, “Yes, there are many people like that, and it is unfortunate that they are the way they are.”
But we are all participants in the slow death process. When we become aware of the process, we need to understand and stop it. Otherwise, we contribute to its spread.
Levels of Change
By advocating a fresh perspective and self-change, Andrea Jung calls on us to transcend past assumptions, live in the present, see potential, and then actualize it. This requires living in a heightened state of awareness. Firing ourselves on Friday automatically forces us to make new assumptions and stand in the present with proactive intent. In a proactive stance we can more productively orient ourselves toward the unfolding future. Instead of dragging our past baggage into the future, we bring the future into our pristine present, where we can shape what is unfolding. This is a transformational stance. It transforms our orientation from the past to the future, unlocking our generative capacities.
The transformational way of thinking was well-captured by Otto Scharmer in his book, Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges. Scharmer distinguishes between different levels, or depths, of change, each of which demands more effort on the part of the leader. At the first level, the individual simply responds to outside stimuli, whereas the deepest level is reached only at the end of a long, careful process of self-examination. Ranked from easiest to most challenging, here are Scharmer’s levels of change:
- •Re-acting: A challenge confronts us and we try to resolve it.
- •Re-structuring: We define current reality and decide to create new structures and processes.
- •Re-designing: We recognize other ways of perceiving the challenge and we create new core activities and processes that incorporate our changed perspective.
- •Re-framing: We engage in dialogue with the key actors, and the process reveals many of our own deep assumptions. Understanding our assumptions helps us create new thinking and new principles of action.
- •Re-generating: We reexamine our purpose and discover where our commitment comes from. We draw strength from understanding why we do what we do.