What a leader needs to know about change

By: EvansJeff

One of my friends recently asked me why anyone would want to hire someone to create change in their organization. His perspective was that a business would want to be stable and reliable, not in transition and change. There are the old adages of "why upset the apple cart" or "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". So, his question is quite valid. Why support change? Here's what I have learned about this.

Change, in itself, is just a process, and a natural one. When you think about larger systems, it is clear that change is actually a constant, and happens whether we want it or not. Every system on the planet has the innate ability to change. We also have the ability to act repeatedly in the same ways, in order to produce the same results. What we actually do, in organizations, is to create processes that resist or avoid change processes in order to promote predictability and stability. Organization designers have had over of century of practice creating organizations that are insulated from the natural forces that create evolutionary change.

The reason that working through a change process can be hard in an organization is usually because of an approach issue. Organizations are built to shore up against natural change. This is the resistance we speak of, which can be thought of dykes or dams that create a boundary and stabilizing force. Most change processes force the change through the system, which can be a lot of work. Add to that, that these stability forces are working harder to try to do their jobs, and you end up with two forces each trying to overcome the other. Now that can be a lot of work.

On the other hand, if you use the natural process of change and reduce the forces for stability, change can occur quickly and easily. As a transformational leader, you need to have enough understanding of change processes and organizations to be able to use these natural forces towards a desirable end. While at first glance they might seem to be invisible, they are actually quite simple once you learn what to look for and some methods of using them. You can learn more in my new book Inspirational Presence: The Art of Transformational Leadership (Morgan James, 2009), or you can contact me for more information. So, take some time, take some notes, and change your life!

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Jeff Evans is the CEO of Envision Global Leadership. He also practices in the areas of leadership development, human systems change, and organizational capability, serving clients in a powerful capacity as learning partner and coach. He has spent the past 25 years heavily involved in supporting executives through transformational change, organizational development, and the management of organizational development and education systems.

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