Anyone who thinks making changes is easy- has not really changed! People who say that adapting to changes comes easy to them probably have not made a true transformational change; they may have only made a small incremental change. It’s the transformational changes that have the greatest impact on individuals as well as on organizations. But these are also the hardest changes to make. This is the topic of Chapter 10 in Robert E. Quinn’s book Deep Change. I’ve been moving through this book chapter by chapter as a way to kick off the new year.
What is the number 1 reason why transformational changes are the hardest to make? What makes it so hard to make these changes is that we are in denial that change is really needed. We have creative ways of talking ourselves out of the idea that change is warranted. Here are the most common phrases that I hear that indicate that individuals (and entire organizations) are in some level of denial.
- We’ve always done it this way. And if it ain’t broke, why should we fix it!
- We spent a lot of money to get this process into place. If we change, we will be wasting all of that money.
- Just because a few people aren’t happy, doesn’t mean we should turn our whole organization upside down. You can’t please everyone!
- If it needed to change, someone would have told me that a long time ago.
- They won’t listen to me anyway. Why should I even recommend a change if no one will listen to me?
These are the typical phrases that indicate some level of denial. You’ve invested money that you think you would be wasting, you’re convinced that if other people wanted changes they would have told you and if only a few people complain then it really can’t be that bad. We fall into traps of minimizing issues, justifying previous decisions, validating our own self worth and convincing others that it really isn’t all that bad. The bottom line with all of these statements is that we are in denial that transformational change is an option to consider.
How many times in a given day do you do something out of habit, but silently (or vocally) complain about how difficult it is, time consuming it is or not worth doing- but somehow you find yourself doing it anyway. We are all creatures of habits and creatures of the culture in which we work. There are so many things that we do while in auto-pilot mode that we do not think twice about. But what if we opened our mind just a bit and started questioning the way we do things? Making changes starts by opening our minds to the possibility that change is needed. But also recognize that change will be challenging.
“Deep change throughout a system means sacrifice and suffering for everyone. It also means engaging in real conflict. It is not very pleasant” (Quinn, 1996, p. 95).
You will know you are making significant changes when there is some level of pain. Pain is a sign of growth. Don’t shy away from it- embrace the pain and manage through it instead of pushing it away as something too painful to endure. Athletes will tell you, “No pain, no gain”. They’re right.