When Change is No Longer a Dirty Little Word

By Terry Schurter

Change. What a powerful word. For most people it elicits an immediately reaction. It has meaning... but what meaning does it have for you?

The study of human nature tells us that when things are suddenly different our primordial response is one of fear or at least caution. When we believe that something is happening that will cause things to no longer be the same our basic instinct is to pull back into a defensive response of fight or flight - because if things are not the same then whatever is different could pose a threat to us!

But there are also learned responses or behaviors that can take place as well. Some change we welcome, like new versions of our favorite products. This isn't always true of course, but certainly products that have a high rate of advancement often elicit anticipation. What will the newest gadget or game system look like? What will I be able to do tomorrow that I can't do today?

When we see something that is different as new and exciting then our desire for that newness can also become addictive. Once our response is registered as exciting versus threatening we are drawn to newness. Job, partner and location are examples that can actually become addictive.

Why does our response to things being different sometimes become addictive instead of eliciting a flight or fear response? That's where things get really interesting. Again, back to good old human nature. While we (people) nominally seek stability in our lives that stability can lead to boredom. What really wakes us up and brings us to life? When something HAPPENS. Something different. Something that is NOT part of stability.

Human Response is Contradictory

Human nature in respect to change is actually contradictory. While we often outwardly seek stability, we internally thirst for difference. It's our nature. That's just the way it is.

The best place for us to be is where we have a balance of stability and newness. That's a big part of the approach to process improvement I have founded and one of the foundational concepts responsible for its phenomenal success. One of the goals we should strive for is to find ways to operate safely within the balance of stability and change. It helps us to make our observations from a unique perspective while granting us the permission to challenge those things we instinctively know are not the right thing for us to be doing.

A resulting dynamic from this is the key to the future of greater success in adaptation. What we are finding is that as we move into a state of personal and organizational balance, the organizations we work for are becoming more agile with change being a natural behavior (rather than an imposed directive) without the need to challenge the stability of the organization. We don't need to re-engineer wholesale - instead we become engaged in an ongoing process of continuous improvement that actually enhances stability by clearly aligning these activities with a common process goal.

"Balance" Fosters Growth while Maintaining Stability

This balance is in itself something new for us. It's the first time we've had a place to go for help in striking the balance that is right for us, the context of our organization, and the external forces (market, economy, etc.) that are the loci of the pressure we all feel. As these factors exert varying influence on us, our activities adapt as well keeping us in balance regardless of how things are different.

So perhaps we should start thinking about how our personal balance ends up being the gyroscope of the business - the thing that keeps the organization whole and successful while all of these external forces whirl and swirl around us. That description is probably a lot more accurate than you think.

Customer alignment, advanced improvement, rapid but balanced change, retention of focus throughout, new observations that help us immediately do the right things for the right reasons. These are some of the benefits awaiting us.

About the Author

Terry Schurter is an internationally recognized Thought Leader, Director of the nonprofit International Process and Performance Institute, Author and highly sought-after speaker. To learn more on Terry's perspectives or contact Terry please visit: the International Process and Performance Institute, http://www.ipapi.org or his personal website, http://www.tschurter.com.

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