Posted by: Knightbird | August 26, 2010

The Slow Dynamics of Change

“… nothing is more difficult than to introduce a new order. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new…” Niccolò Machiavelli, 1532AD

The quotation above is a favorite of Pip Coburn of Mr. Coburn’s name was given to me by Mark Siwik of Be Like Coach. Both are innovative thinkers and challenge me to view information in new ways.

Lean Management is frightening to people in an organization because it changes their world. I know that because I faced it. I had huge resistance from many employees. Mr. Coburn states in the opening chapter of his new book, The Change Function, that users of technology “…will change their habits when the pain of their current situation is greater than their perceived pain of adopting a possible solution….” Many of my employees went to new workplaces that replicated the old Chugachmiut because change caused them too much pain. Their skills continue to serve them well in the new workplace. Other employees used every trick they ever learned to resist the change. We had to encourage some of them off the bus (Jim Collins).

It has been my observation that someone who is extremely successful in a workplace has little incentive to change. If you can successfully “game” the workplace to your advantage, you will like the status quo. Part of the gamesmanship in many organizations are the annual performance reviews. If you are getting good reviews (and most employee’s get good reviews), you won’t want to eliminate performance reviews. If you are constantly being promoted for your behaviors in the workplace, why would you want to change those behaviors. And if your salary continues to climb, why bother with change. With the perception of personal success that you can

And then there are those who resist change despite facing extremely dire consequences if they don’t change. The hard core addicts served by Gabor Mate at the Portland Hotel in Vancouver, DC are one such group. Many die because their current condition seems less painful than changing their behaviors. We see that when confronted with suicides. The pain of continuing to live is perceived greater than ending that life.

Yet there are those who embrace change eagerly when presented with a compelling vision. Employees at the new Chugachmiut confront and achieve change every day. The look at what can be and are encouraged to work towards a vision that we may not reach in our lifetime. Some addicts face the pain they are masking with their addiction and create a new future. Selfish employees stop looking at their individual benefit, and start to focus on what benefit they can create for their customers.

Change is a difficult topic to grasp—both how to achieve and how to defend. I will be trying to understand change better from now on. I see a wonderful future for Alaska Native people, but it will require change. It will be resisted, but there will be those who eagerly embrace this perceived future. Leadership requires understanding the need for change, and building the tool chest to faciliate it.

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