Organizational Change: Not every change requires a 5-Alarm response
I arrived to the “Calvin and Hobbes” party towards the end of its decade-long run, but I was immediately struck by its brilliance. My favorite Bill Watterson quote is “YOU KNOW WHAT’S WEIRD? DAY BY DAY, NOTHING SEEMS TO CHANGE BUT PRETTY SOON… EVERYTHING’S DIFFERENT.”
So many people are fearful of change, because for some reason the connotation with change is that it’s a bad thing. Think of all the people waxing poetic about the “good old days” and yet the reality is - as Watterson so simply stated - with time, everything changes because change is inevitable, and so it’s not change itself that is scary, but it’s the growth that comes out of it. In everyday life change is usually gradual, barring the major events that turn the world upside down because those are exceptions. But if we sit and think about life three months ago, I think that each one of us could think of some change(s) that has occurred, and the reason why it wasn’t painful is because it was a transition that gradually came over time.
People are fearful of change because, small or large, it requires a growth mindset. With external change comes internal change, and when it comes in small doses it is much more manageable, to the point that it may not even be noticeable. Organizations and institutions should consider then launching change in a way that it is incremental and gradual. Note that gradual does not mean glacial; it means that the norm of making a decision, announcing it, instituting the change, and expecting universal adoption all within a week’s time is unreasonable. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but the point is if all changes are presented as major changes, then it’s no wonder that people are fearful of change and that change management does not succeed.
For leaders, this means that all changes should not be handled as urgent events. When your employees are thrown into a constant state of frenzy over the next big initiative, they will burn out quickly and whatever solution the change was supposed to provide will be ineffective. Some changes are like fires and need to be handled immediately but it’s time that leaders and organizations stop creating urgency around everything and spend more time allowing for the change to happen “day by day.”