In my two last blogs, I wrote about change management and added my expert opinion about starting with oneself and when to apply complexity thinking. Missing from those two blogs, and is often missing in other literature, is a discussion about how challenging change can be. Over the decades I have learned that change is inevitable, continuous, and can seem ambiguous. To help bring clarity and ease, this blog explores change and transition.
As described by the author William Bridges, change is something that you can mark on a calendar—for example, the day you met your life partner, started a new job, or a loved one died. What many people don’t realize is that change can trigger an emotional transition, which is experienced in our head, heart, and gut. It’s the transition that often makes us feel emotional, brings on feelings of vulnerability, and can be hard to comprehend. Successful change actually lies on our ability to get through the transition.
While change management literature tends to be prescriptive and results focused, I believe that coupling complexity theory with change management approaches can help with understanding the continuous change and nonlinearity of today’s organizations. The benefits of applying complexity thinking to organizations, which are complex adaptive systems, can lead to seeing situations from different lenses, developing new and innovative approaches to problems, and gaining a greater appreciation for processes such as safe-to-fail.
Creating lasting change requires a vision, patience, and time. It also requires a cultural shift from one way of being to another. This work in particular is often easier said than done. Why? People are generally averse to change unless they can see how it benefits them. Small shifts in an organization can take years to effect. But, when there is alignment across a system in support of a new initiative, then change can come much faster.