Managing Change: what it is, and is not

Managing change is truly not as esoteric as one might think. The truth is that all of us manage the impact of change far more often than we realise – moving house, changing schools, upgrading a mobile phone.

As adults life is constantly about learning to deal with changes. Some of these we plan for, some of these we can anticipate and some of them can quite honestly “knock us for a six”. We quite simply live in a dynamic world which is never static.

Change we choose ourselves remains the easiest to transition, especially if we have adequate time to prepare. There is a reason nature gave us 9 months to prepare for a new baby! Changes foisted on us with little warning are the hardest.

So, what is Change Management? It is the body of knowledge and skills required to anticipate the normal human response to change and to facilitate ourselves and others safely through the transition. The change management tool kit is a set of new paradigms, knowledge, skills and competencies to facilitate the reduction of change resistance and, more importantly, the enhancement of change resilience.

The emotions that underpin transitioning are complex and quite often negative. Anxiety, anger, frustration, fear and confusion are commonly experienced. A few of us experience excitement and relish the ambiguity and uncertainty change brings. Understanding that this process is normal and wonderfully human and necessary is an important first step.

The important thing to remember is that to some degree, no matter what the context or impact of the change, we all go through the normal change cycle. The change cycle has no fixed time frame, no laid out linear step by step process, no patterns.

Let’s reflect briefly on what change management is not. It is not a silver bullet or a magic wand. It comes with few guarantees given the unpredictability of delightfully diverse humans. It’s also not for everyone. Only those who are serious about leading change for the good of others should consider acquiring change leadership skills. Why do I say that? Because in many ways it is the hardest real work as a leader you will ever do. To change even your corner of the world requires vision, courage, resolve, grace, humility, change resilience, self-mastery and empathy. That’s if you really want to change the world by taking the real people with you.

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