We humans are highly adept at adapting to change, yet we’re also prone to intense anxiety when confronted by it. It’s inherently unsettling. But without anxiety, there’s little impetus for growth and development. Change management is often anxiety management.
Gestalt psychologist and consultant Herb Stevenson draws on four fundamental laws of change:
- Change has to come from within. Externally imposed changes inevitably evoke resistance. But using appreciative inquiry to access the huge reserves of competence and knowledge already existing in an organisation’s human talent is the first step to generating shared faith in both the capacity for change and the desire to change.
- Change requires a clear vision. Change borne of panic at market disruption will rarely succeed in bringing people on board. A well-considered and thoroughly shared vision of why change is now needed and what it will consist of is of pivotal importance.
- Change depends on collaborative learning. That well-considered insight about change has to be shared within the groups of people that make up the organisation. Change needs to be helped on its course, it has to be supported on a sustained basis. That involves each individual in the organisation learning about how he or she is responsible for how it functions. A sense of shared, mutual responsibility can never be imposed, but it can be learned and nurtured. When President Kennedy visited NASA, he paused to speak to a black janitor, asking him what his job was. The wise old janitor replied, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon, Mr President.” NASA got it right.
- Change requires a “healing forest”. A team that’s undergoing change needs support for their efforts and commitment from a larger community. An individual can find this “healing forest” of a larger community be seeking the support of friends and family; for a team in an organisation, cultures that foster support for those experiencing change from the larger work community will have a big advantage.