Forget Change, Try Cruise Control

A lot has been said about the management of change. Whether it’s Kotter’s 8 steps or another number, the starting point seems to be that change doesn’t happen unless particular conditions are satisfied.

The diagram below, circulated in several forms on social media, implies that the only way change is achieved is by having vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan. Or in other words, if you’re missing any one of these things, change won’t happen.

According to one misattributed quote “change is the only constant”. How is this possible if such complicated conditions are needed for change to happen?

Consider the problem from another angle. Spend the next few days resisting change. That’s right – make it your stated aim to continue doing exactly what you did yesterday. Let your business run on cruise control.

It might be easy at first, rejecting bold plans for future growth. Then come the difficult requests, having to say “no” to every minor fix that addresses some existing issue. “Doing what you did yesterday” means exactly that – warts and all. You’ll be surprised at how much change happens anyway, without a formal plan addressing all those required conditions.

I’ve only seen this done once successfully. After an IT system meltdown, there was an enforced moratorium on all change requests. What happened? Changes were just delayed until after the ban was lifted. It wasn’t actually very successful at creating any sort of long-term stability.

Change is the only constant, and we all need to support, craft and shape it. Instead of actively “driving” change, rely on the organic forces of change, much like cruise control on a car, to propel forward momentum. This leaves you free to concentrate on steering your organisation in the right direction.