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Our Philosophy of Change

You have to have a basis, a driving force. This is ours.

A Philosophy of Change Management

Change has many flavours: forced, invited, unwanted, essential, mundane, reactive, initiated, responsive, unanticipated, desired, required, rapid, chronic, traumatic…

Change is simple

Experience says change is very simple, and everyone knows it.

a)    See a problem or opportunity.

b)    Imagine and create a (better) way to address it.

i.         Figure out what to do and why

ii.         Figure out how to do it

c)    If applicable, get the organization to agree.

d)    Do it.

That’s a change.

Change is hard

Change is also very hard. It is complex like chess, in which only a few actions and levers of change create infinite variety and complication.[1] Most people see the simplicity and can’t, won’t, or simply don’t appreciate the complexity.

The secret you're not allowed to say

People are the real issue with change in an organization.

No change is universally desired… or despised. When more than one person is affected, someone will not want it. When somebody does not want to change, they will do everything in their power to avoid it or make it stop. This is part of the psychology of change.

Change is subject to the tyranny of such a single problematic person or group because change success requires that 100% of impacted people change.

  • People unwilling to change will cause a fuss about it that may metastasize throughout the organization, expanding resistance.
  • People willing to change tend to not have strong feelings about not changing.

So the path of least resistance is always to capitulate to those opposed to change.

People willing to change do not create problems; people who don’t want to change do… and have much more (negative) energy. Assuming an opposed minority will coalesce onto a wise, “average” path toward the new state of affairs is simply foolish.

Yet organizations have to change. Persistent technological innovation, economic, political, and demographic instability, climate change impacts, a pandemic, and many other forces are dramatically affecting all organizations. That means more and more people will have to participate in (and lead) changes large and small.

The new conditions are unlikely to be hospitable to the tried and true tricks and techniques that inexperienced organizations will draw upon. For the cross-cutting ambiguity and the uncertainty of what to do when it’s obvious something has to be done means new tricks.


Evolution is the most effective and natural response to changing conditions proven by the longest and most definitive test period. The fundamental drawbacks for institutional change are that evolution takes a long time and doesn’t usually have a goal or destination beyond survival.

Things in nature evolve to suit conditions best (“survival of the fittest”) often meandering inefficiently. Organizations typically don’t have that kind of time or latitude. Organizational changes are directed and purposeful—even when shifting environmental conditions might recommend evolution. Some measure of evolution is necessary, especially as change becomes transformation.

Purposeful, goal-oriented change should but can’t be subject to evolutionary wandering. At the very least, it’s inconsistent with the underlying (hierarchical) management approach that presumes people comprising the mass of the organization execute on the instructions and directions of the leaders to achieve the organization’s objects. The philosophy of change has to account for this.

Impacts of psychology

Change tends to be opposed for reasons evident even at the surface. Psychology anticipates and predicts it.

  • Comfortable people tend to be happier and more productive.
  • Stability creates comfort; novelty reduces it. New things challenge us to learn and adapt. We become more anxious and tentative, reducing productivity.
  • Recognition increases comfort (“Better the devil you know” after all.), feeding a negative bias known as loss aversion.
  • We value what we might lose more than any potential gain. Because change often represents loss (of what we know) not gain (of what we imagine), it makes sense that particularly where income depends on it we strongly resist change. Loss aversion, anti-change logic might unfold this way:
    1.  I earn money doing what I do.
    2.  I have experience, knowledge, and skill; few things surprise me.
    3.  Change may render that experience, knowledge, and skill irrelevant so I will be less effective.
    4.  If I am less effective, my value may decrease and I will lose my income/status/relations/…
    5.  I won’t change.
  • People invest in their situations; we challenge anything that threatens our investments.
    • Investment can be self-identification, education/skill, knowledge, relationships, social status, (process) personalization, or any of hundreds of other things.
  • Most people are uncomfortable with ambiguities that challenge understanding of the environment and situation.
  • Heightened uncertainty makes us feel less in control.
  • People—even (senior) leaders advocating change—are driven by incentives. C-Suite leaders are still just employees who experiences loss aversion as they drive forward.
  • Leaders are people, and people respond to people. One leader’s bias, especially if that leader (who might be a “peer”) has influence, can move a vast swath of the organization to oppose a change.

Change provoking organizational anxiety is as predictable as natural law. Except when not changing is a clear and present, mortal danger (and even then…), organizations often convince themselves—even briefly—that persisting, staying the course, steady as she goes, working harder, doubling-down, and so on is prudent. Certainly as compared to ambiguous change. The greater the organization’s history of success, the stronger this tendency.

But for a steady organization, fully developed with things to protect, one that has weathered storms and evolved gently—imperceptibly—over time, incremental adjustment is prudent. In a group, it can be more personally risky to try something new than to stick with the accepted. (This is all part of the philosophy of motivation.) Unaccepted actions are commonly painted as acts of desperation. Nobody wants to be “desperate” no matter how desperate the circumstance. The market never rewards such an organization or individual for a successful risk as much as it will penalize it for not wildly succeeding with what it deems a “gamble.”

Yet, for an organization under siege, yet to find its legs, bent on a yet-to-be-discovered future, aggressive change is prudent. Try new things. Innovate. Shake it up. Fire the coach. It can be difficult to see or appreciate context in which change is sensible or even essential. Most people have a hard time imagining circumstances not substantially as they are. Thus, change is rarely judged prudent for a previously successful organization until prevailing conditions are seen and accepted as existential by all who count and can have an effect.

[1]   Six unique pieces on an 8×8 grid generate about 288,000,000,000 possible positions after only four moves.

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