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Change Resistance
Part 1 of 5


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As organizations move into the new millennium, employees at all lev­els are faced with an ever-increasing number of situations and chal­lenges that involve change. Whether the change is a new overtime policy, an internal reorganization, a large-scale systems implementa­tion, or a corporate takeover, every proposed change affects someone, somehow, and creates a unique set of challenges and opportunities. In many organizations, change is met with a positive attitude, creating a sizzle that ignites everyone. In others, change is viewed negatively and creates a situation where things drizzle along or fizzle out completely, accomplishing little or nothing. Organizations are filled with people who create drizzle and fizzle by not understanding the change process, or by resisting change through complaining, foot-dragging, and out­right hostility.

To improve organizational and personal performance (and to keep their sanity) employees at all levels need to improve their ability to deal with change—to eliminate drizzle and fizzle and move on to sizzle. Teaching people to develop trust and adopt new attitudes about change eliminates resistance, enhances the speed and effectiveness of change, and creates a more productive work environment. This paper demon­strates the benefits of positive, sizzling change and challenges the no­tion that change is something to be resisted. In addition, it presents practical tools and techniques that people can use to become change masters—dynamic, effective leaders and participants who bring sizzle to the never-ending process of change.

THE FORCES AND NATURE OF CHANGE

In today's ultra-competitive, global marketplace, many forces are present that literally require organizations to face change as a way of life if they are to succeed in either the short or long term. Customers and competitors that used to be around the corner may now be on the other side of the globe, making it more difficult to identify and track them. Markets such as automobiles and computers that once had a few major players now are cutthroat arenas where new entrants can come and go at the drop of a hat. Technology and the relative ease of technol­ogy transfer around the world have increased the capability of smaller organizations to compete more effectively with those that are larger and better established. Customers today are more demanding of pro­ducers—they want the highest quality products and services, with the most options, at the lowest prices, delivered in the shortest possible time. Mass production and economies of scale were once the name of the game; now the trend is toward agility and mass customization. In addition, customers are less loyal—if they don't receive all they want from their current source, they will find another one quickly and with­out a backward glance. All of these pressures, and others, have created a competitive environment where success, and perhaps even survival, demands that organizations respond effectively when change is required.

The forces above drive organizational change. However, even when organizational change is viewed as a necessity, the ability of organiza­tions (and the people in them) to change in an effective and timely manner is difficult. The world around us is changing at an ever-in­creasing pace, with greater complexity and uncertainty. In his classic book, Future Shock, which was written in the early 1970s, Alvin Toffler described the rate of change by indicating that man has developed most of the products and services we know within the most recent of the 800 lifetimes of his existence. Were he to update this observation today, Toffler would likely say that the rate of development has increased even more. Technological obsolescence used to be described in terms of years; now technologies and the products associated with them can become obsolete in a matter of months. It's like watching a videotape on the VCR. In previous times, decisions involving change could be examined on "freeze-frame" for a substantial period. Over time the environment became more like a tape at normal speed, where things moved quickly, but with clarity. Today, the pressure for change comes at people and organizations faster and faster, like fast-forward, with increased speed and decreased clarity. They hardly have time to be­come comfortable with the last change before the next one comes along.

As a result, the issue today is not so much whether change is a necessary part of competitive life, but rather when and how fast change will need to occur for organizations to be able to keep up, let alone prosper. One thing is for sure—organizations that fail to change will surely fail.

To Be Continued


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