The Paradox of Change and Stability
We humans are funny animals. We all want to move forward and grow…yet we don’t want to let go of the past or our current reality.
Ideally, we want to move to a new place…but not leave the old one. And we tend to be impatient to get our results…but resistant to make the necessary changes.
Alas, as we all know, we can’t move forward without letting go of something from the past.
Change Without Stability
Research has repeatedly shown that changing everything at once inevitably leads to failure. At worst, we’ve let go of the security of the status quo but haven’t yet created something new to replace it. Unfortunately, this is the failing strategy that many companies use to introduce transformational change in the workplace.
Change requires embracing the paradox that the changes must coexist with a certain level of stability. While letting go of the things that need to be changed, the core values must be kept intact. This paradox reflects the very human need for growth with the equally important need for security.
Trying to change everything at once creates chaos, confusion, resistance, and (ultimately) failure. Trust is destroyed between the change leaders and the change targets. Resistance to new ideas becomes rampant. Star performers leave for more supportive and less stressful cultures. Future change is nearly impossible.
While change can be exciting and fuel growth, humans need to feel a certain level of security that some things can still be relied upon. We require a map for the change journey, an action plan that propels us forward to a worthy goal or outcome and reinforces those policies, processes, procedures, relationships, and values that have been the foundation for past successes.
Chaos ensues when care has not been taken to analyze what has worked in the past – which is what should be retained as we move forward – as well as what no longer works and needs to be changed. Planning also requires a solid understanding of why something no longer works so that iterations of that issue can be avoided as we move forward.
Knowing where we’re going requires knowing where we’ve been, where we are, and why we have chosen the new goal or destination.
Stability Without Change
Steadfastly relying on what worked in the past simply because it worked in the past is equally likely to lead to failure. The modern workplace, global market, and changing buying patterns of customers (both B2C and B2B) necessitate change in the way we “do business.”
Many companies are slow to introduce change in the workplace. Sometimes it’s due to fear that the changes won’t be accepted. Sometimes it’s because senior leaders don’t have a solid understanding of how to effectively plan, implement, and evaluate a change initiative. Still other times it’s due to arrogance or disbelief that the world in which the business operates has radically changed.
Flexibility and adaptability are critical capabilities for both survival and growth. Merely surviving is the equivalent of standing still – but science has taught us that nothing ever stands still. We are either moving forward or moving backward. It is impossible to do things in the exact same way in the exact same place and in the exact same environment.
The visionaries within the company often are ignored and ridiculed when they provide information or trends that undermine the current way in which the company conducts its business. But when the company finally acknowledges these warnings, these visionaries are usually long gone from the company – and are often working for their competitors.
Puleo’s Pointers: Stability That Embraces Change
The most agile companies generally are based on a strong foundation of core values that direct their strategies, projects, and opportunities. Their products might change. Their messaging might change. Their distribution channels might change. But their brand (if solid) remains the same or even expands in its scope and depth.
Having a core foundation of values that resonate with the very human needs of the workforce (e.g., respect, integrity, commitment to excellence) will unleash the creativity and innovation of the workforce in moving forward. These values provide the critical sense of security and stability that frees us to let go and move forward.
In other words, change is viewed as an evolutionary expansion of what is good in both the company and its people. It is no longer something to be feared, but rather something to be enjoyed and embraced.
While it may seem to be counterintuitive, companies are better able to completely transform themselves when they move forward from a foundation of stability rather than jumping head first into the unknown.
The fundamental need for change/growth and stability/security is hardwired into humans. It’s about time that change leaders acknowledge this reality so that their companies can adapt to a constantly changing world without demoralizing and burning out their workers.
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout: Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.