"The only constant is change". This familiar quotation sums up that nothing is static. Everything - the universe, our planet and our lives - is in a state of constant flux and there's nothing we can do to stop change. Nations, societies and organisations must evolve and change to survive and so must every individual within them.
Perhaps change is ultimately driven by those in power or seeking to claim power? Take the world of politics. If one political party is seeking to take power via an election, it is highly likely that it will propose a series of advantageous changes, which if voted in would be implemented to the positive benefit of a particular group of people.
History is full of such examples. The drive for equality and votes for women, as well as being morally correct, was certainly a highly pragmatic strategy and perhaps not quite so altruistic for the challengers of power in the late 1800s. In the short term at least, the female vote was assured and so therefore was power for its leaders. Legislation invariably runs parallel with such political initiatives. As with any system one change promotes further changes.
Inventions and technology almost certainly bring about great change. It could be argued that the global economy would not have been possible without Frank Whittle's invention of the jet engine. Global tourism would certainly have been impossible. The very fact that you are reading this page is dependant solely on the invention of the World Wide Web.
Managing change and dealing with its implications will differ from person to person. There are broadly three types of reaction to change. It is particularly worth noting here that these behaviours are not hierarchical. In other words, it is not about the reactions to change of those lower in the organisation. These reactions can apply to people at all levels and status.
In the UK during the 1980s the government considered it economically unviable to maintain the operation of a number of traditional coalmines. The implications of such a statement for many people working in the mining industry were catastrophic. The spectre of unemployment or re-written terms of employment led to one of the longest running and most bitter industrial disputes in the history of labour relations. This active and organised resistance to industrial change presented one of the biggest challenges to the government of the time. Not all resistance to change is so confrontational and direct. Resistance can also be passive in people who refuse to accept re-training or cannot accept new ideas and approaches. Extreme passive resistance can be seen in people who refuse to engage in conversation with those who have proposed a change.
Change is viewed as something going on around them. The view of the indifferent person might be one of avoidance until some form of acceptance becomes absolutely necessary. The indifferent person often believes that his or her world will remain unchanged and that someone else will be affected or will do what is necessary. Apathy often accompanies this attitude to change with an "I can cope with it" mentality.
These people are receptive to new ideas and prepared to embrace the reality of a situation recognising what needs to be improved or done differently. It is not necessarily about the wanton desire for change for its own sake. Change will happen so there is a lot to be said for being a part of the process at an organisational level and accepting this reality at a personal level.
Positive elements of change can include the creation of a better set of circumstances, the fun of being involved in something different, the opportunities presented from a new venture or means of employment. However in the short term change can also mean loss, discontinuity, and the destruction of a familiar and "safe" way of life.... "the good old days". Consequently feelings of insecurity, a lack of trust in the hierarchy and feelings of being sold down the river can lead people to savagely protect the status quo. A lack of understanding, a lack of trust and fear of the outcome are perhaps some of the key reasons that lead people to reject change.
How many of the above elements have changed for you during the past five years? It is highly likely that many if not all of these major life elements will have changed to some degree. How many of these changes, good or bad, simply happened and how many of them did you actually influence and affect? Often the answer is a resounding "too few"'! Change management tools found throughout this site could therefore become some of the most powerful in your personal tool kit.
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