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The Trials and Tribulations of Change Management

We have all heard the famous maxim, "The only thing that remains constant is change." But how many of us use this guideline in our daily life? We are all aware that life is an ongoing process of change. The human body undergoes a million changes every second. The universe too is continually changing. Why then, do we stall our own progress by not accepting change?

What is change management? Does "change" mean "adjustment"? Or does it mean "starting all over again"? Change, in the broadest definition, means "alteration", or "modification". It is important to accept change when situations vary; however, it does not mean that one has to 'compromise' on core values. On the contrary, change is essential to keep core values intact. Change is a positive process, which results in a desirable outcome. Change is essential for growth, strength, and stability. Sometimes, change occurs naturally, without any conscious effort or knowledge. For instance, ageing is a natural change process. At other times, change becomes a choice that can be accepted or rejected. For instance, choice of profession, attitude, and the like are some of the optional change processes. Here, 'no change' is also one of the choices. However, the toughest change process is the one that gives no options, thus making change mandatory. This is where people face several barriers to change.
  • Impediment to Change Management #1: Fear of the Unknown
    For some of us, change is a scary word. Change brings in the fear of the unknown. People don't want to get into unexplored waters. They like to be in familiar grounds. They don't want to break the old mold, as they feel quite comfortable within it.

  • Impediment to Change Management #2: Discomfort
    Change usually brings in a level of discomfort. Discomfort usually arises from new learning, lack of knowledge of circumstances, and environmental discomfort. The very thought of undergoing discomfort causes people to digress from change.

  • Impediment to Change Management #3: Self-Doubt
    In most cases, self-doubt is the biggest barrier to change. Even if the change process is easy, sometimes people are withheld by their own insecurities and self-doubts. It is difficult to see merit in the change process when the outcome is not clearly defined.

  • Impediment to Change Management #4: Social Factors
    Peer and societal pressures are also prominent barriers to change. Interestingly, peer/societal pressures can act as change catalysts as well as barriers to change.

    Change becomes an unpleasant experience when one is forced, or pressurized into the process. However, if we can acknowledge the importance of change and willingly undergo the process, change can prove to be a learning experience.

    The Change Management Exercise
    Here is how you can manage change, without getting suffocated with the change process:

  • Identify
    Find out the area for change. It is very unlikely that you don't have any area for change; everyone requires change. Perhaps it is your occupation, or your lifestyle. Perhaps your habits need to be re-assessed, or maybe you need to change your attitude towards subordinates. Take help in identifying areas of change from close friends or relatives.

  • Clarify
    Why do you want to change? What will be the outcome? Do you see merit in the change? Are you changing because of peer pressure? Or are changing because you are convinced of its benefits? Reassess your change management objectives. Very often, self-doubts creep in at this juncture. However, if you candidly answer the change objective question, you will be back on track.

  • Research
    It is not just important to want to change. There should be enough grounds for change. Hence, do your homework thoroughly. What are your chances of success? Probe into these areas and change management will become effortless.

  • Plan
    A well planned change management process puts things in perspective. You can document your successes and failures in change attempts. You can also unearth barriers to change and tackle them effectively.

  • Plunge
    Finally, all else will fail if you cannot get yourself to undergo change. If you are trying to kick a habit, like smoking, you have to make a beginning. Without initiative, nothing can work.

  • Burn the Bridges
    There is always a dilemma whether or not to 'burn the bridges.' Yes, if you have an escape route, you will have saved yourself from untold losses. However, I strongly believe that such losses should have been forecasted at the research and planning stage. There should be a backup plan ready for potential losses. If the research and planning is done well, then there is no need for an escape route. As a matter of fact, the escape route is used by the ones who chicken out at the last minute. So I would strongly recommend that you 'burn the bridges' and charge ahead till you succeed.
Change management is not a one-stop destination. It is an ongoing process. There is considerable learning in the process of change. Moreover, change management helps us to adapt to dynamic business environment. As in the case of individuals, organizations must also effect change. The tenets of change management must be imbibed by senior officers, who in turn set examples of change management to juniors in the organization.

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