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Change is a Natural Process and a Huge Learning Opportunity

Posted on the 09 December 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

Change is a natural process and a huge learning opportunity

Change is an integral part of business and everyday life that is not only inevitable, but also essential.

Technological advances in the workplace mean that there is no choice, well there are choices, but most boil down to change or go the way of the dodo.

The only real problem with change is the word itself, “Change” makes us uncomfortable – it is not so much the implications, which are largely ignored, but the fact that we have to change. Change entails moving, to some extent, into the unknown, stretching the boundaries of our comfort zones and rethinking how we do things.

Change can then be, and is often, viewed as a threat to the status quo, “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken”, “why change a winning team” etc. Well, quite simply, complacency does not make change go away, and todays smoothly-running machine and winning team may just not be up to it tomorrow.

Well, I said the only problem, what I really mean is that there are many problems with change – firstly, utter the words and people tend to see negatives, then mis-manage it and the negatives are confirmed.

The real problems, linked to the mis-management of change, can be, perhaps, resumed in two words; “Involvement” and “communication”.

One of the key aspects in Lifelong Learning and the Learning Organisation, is the ability to embrace change as not only inevitable, but also as a desirable phenomena.

Lifelong Learning and the capacity of a company and its people to transform themselves into a Learning Organisation – where learning is the norm and not the exception, is what will be the make-or-break point in the 21st century, providing the edge that helps an organisation and its people keep pace with technological and workplace change.

Very often the question, as to why people, or yourself, resist change is never really fully explored – perhaps this is one of the roots that can provide a clearer picture regarding change management processes.

The contradiction is that we naturally live with change in our lives, be it emotional, physical or developmental. So why do so many resist it so doggedly?

One reason could be the payback time that change entails – it is not instant gratification, the rewards come after the pain in most cases and it is often difficult to see opportunity where and when sweeping change is taking place.

One key aspect is the “reproducibility” of change – generally it is a process that is universal in as much as it is context free, managing change in one situation is very similar to managing it in another context. It is another case of the primacy of process over content, and we can learn to react and act on change effectively.

Ask yourself a few questions – think about the last 12 months:

  1. What changes have occurred in your personal life?
  2. What changes have occurred in your professional life?
  3. How did react to these changes when they occurred?
  4. How do you feel about these changes now?
  5. Were you able to anticipate these changes?
  6. Were you instrumental in bringing about these changes?
  7. Do you actively seek out change?
  8. Do you react positively to change?
  9. If you acted negatively, can you justify this?
  10. How will you learn from changes that have occurred for the future?
When reflecting on change, consider both the short and long-term consequences – there are always benefits and opportunity if we look hard enough – although sometimes we need to really look hard.Now, we know that change is inevitable, so now, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What changes do I hope to see in the next 12 months?
  2. How have I managed change in the last 12 months and how successful was I?
  3. Am I anticipating change at an acceptable rate? 
  4. How can I maintain / accelerate my anticipation of change?
  5. What changes would make the most differences to me personally?
  6. Am I continually learning and encouraging others to do the same?
The questions above are basically about learning and self-awareness, it is thus true that learning to change may well be a huge change in itself, a natural habit that is part of the hard-wiring of lifelong learning and the Learning Organisation. Changes in thinking are overtly evident in changes of behavior and attitude and lead to the natural development of some of the most valuable soft skills for life and the workplace:
  • Communication
  • Openness
  • Learning
  • Collaboration
  • Growth
  • Motivation
  • Planning & anticipation
When answering the questions above, think about yourself, then think about your workplace or your environment – are there any parallels that you can draw between the two contexts? Do you face-up to change in your personal life as you do in the workplace? Could you draw any advantages from any differences to your strategies, actions and behaviours? One of the main reasons that people fight change, which is always going to be a lost battle, is that they often face change as a new concept or occurence, failing to build on what has been experienced and achieved, which, in effect is missing out on some golden opportunities. The most effective way to manage change is to anticipate it, before it creeps up on us – the only really effective way to do this is to be constantly learning. My take on an ancient Chinese proverb, If you are planning for a year, plant rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, Learn!

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