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The Dynamics of Change

"People will find a thousand ingenious ways to withhold cooperation from a process that they sincerely think is unnecessary or wrongheaded" – John P. Kotter

In Leading Change, Kotter outlines eight necessary steps to effective change. This article deals with the first of these. We’ve all heard some rendition of the saying, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Kotter points out that the very first step to making any significant change is the recognition that change is necessary. He highlights the point by stating unequivocally that change will fail, or not even be attempted, if there is an absence of a visible crisis.

There’s the rub. Recognizing the crisis is not pleasant or easy. It can actually be painful. We plug along, we do what we’ve always done and things just happen. We tweak things, we try this, we try that, we learn along the way and we somehow get a little better and a little stronger.

Real change, the type of change that catapults us to significant success requires a sense of urgency, a sense of crisis. As humans we are pre-wired to look for comfort and to avoid conflict and crisis. By our very nature, we don’t notice subtle changes that happen over time – even though those very changes, if they happened all at once, would accumulate to alert our natural instincts that a crisis had developed.

Here’s an example. Watch this short 12 second video. Be advised up front that there is a change happening. Press the play button now and watch for the change.

Did you spot it? Not likely. Now try it again – this time, Drag the timeline arrow on the bottom of the video to speed it forward and backward quickly and the change will become obvious. If you still can’t see it, try pressing the double arrows to jump to the beginning and the end.

Now play the video one more time at regular speed and look for the change. Wonder how you missed it the first time?

Just like this video, changes are happening around us all the time. They are subtle but they are there. To "create" a crisis, take a look back at how things were just two or three years ago. The unique economic situation aside, what has changed? How has your business reacted the cumulative changes that have taken place to: client expectations, compliance regulations, subtle product changes, technology, staffing, your personal life.. etc.

In aggregate, had all these changes happened overnight, they would have created a crisis. Because they were gradual, we pretty much rolled with the punches, tweaked and adapted.

What does all this mean? It means that if we want to achieve unsurpassed success, we need to “see the writing on the wall” now! Create your crisis. It’s there, you just need to see it.

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2 Responses to “The Dynamics of Change”

  1. Kirk Lowe says:

    Great article Ray.

    I’d like to add that the crisis should revolve around one’s vision. If you create crisis in areas that don’t move you in the direction of your vision, that misalignment may keep you from achieving what you really want. I work a lot with financial advisors and I see too many who create crisis in areas that are ineffective and don’t produce results.

    But I agree it’s necessary to effect change.

  2. Dan Spiranac says:

    I work in the financial industry and the problem I see with my clients is that they do not have a vision. At least not a vision that is truly defined and is part of their everyday lives.

    Until one has a vision that is real how can one possibly make the changes necessary to produce a crisis?

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