Why is Change So Hard?

Mike Leigh
by Mike Leigh, President of OpX Solutions

“Those who most resist change are those who are most capable in the current process.” I don’t remember where I first heard this, but it’s true. Think about the last time you tried to implement a process or system change in your organization. Who were the biggest resistors? Isn’t it easier to maintain the status quo?

But consider this quote by George Lichetenberg: “I cannot say things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” There lies the conundrum. Change is disruptive, but necessary for improvement and long-term success.

We are in the change business. We work with organizations to change their processes and change their leadership attitudes and behaviors to be more effective. Everyone wants to change and improve, but only some will attempt it, and many will fall short. A lot has been written about organizational change, but we’ve learned there are a few key elements that must be present for change efforts to be successful.

  • Change must be promoted from the top. There must be a leader who promotes the effort, provides the resources needed, and takes ownership of the results. It’s not enough for a leader to ask for and support change. It must be demanded.
  • There must be focus. You can’t try to change too much at the same time or resources will be spread too thin.
  • Any change effort must be continuously monitored for effectiveness during the first several weeks, and immediate corrections should be made. It can take a few weeks for any unintended consequences to appear, and it usually takes several weeks for new habits to develop.

Too often after an organization implements a process change, all attention moves on to the next project allowing the new process to slide back to the old way. This “fix and forget” method of making improvements rarely results in long-lasting change.

Let’s face it. We humans enjoy our comfort zone. We are most content when we can live by our established habits and behaviors. You can get away with that in your personal lives (although not ideal), but apathy in an organization will kill it. So leaders – consider these key elements and make successful change happen!

This article was previously published in Virginia Business Front Magazine.


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