Are we changing again?

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- If there is one constant with our modern society and work place, it would be change. Have you gone through a week without being affected by change? I'd expect probably not. 

Some changes are small and almost unnoticeable. Others are larger and many times more disruptive.

Regardless of their position, everyone has implemented or been the recipient of change. Your perception of this process is important to how receptive you are to future changes.

We're in a constant state of change, many times not finishing the current change before implementing a new and improved change. The constant cycle of change after change often results in people resisting change.

The mere mention of the word is enough for some to dig in their heels, erect walls and begin the process of killing the change before it begins. Often this happens without considering the benefits the change could bring. Many times fear of the unknown is the only problem with change.

I content an unanticipated change can turn into to a great opportunity just by considering the possibilities rather than the limitations. Change is not something new. It is a constant fact for mankind. What is new is the increasing rate of change efforts.

According to John Kotter in "Leadership at the Turn of the Century," the rate of change is rapidly increasing. With the onslaught of improving technologies and globalization, the rate of change is sure to increase. Unless individuals or organizations wish to become irrelevant, it's absolutely necessary to seek ways to improve approaches and attitudes towards change.

It's not a question of if we need to change, but rather how we should respond to change. Rather than resisting the inevitable, I suggest people need to develop methods and ways of cooping with and managing change. By approaching change in a proactive versus a reactive manner, people can effectively manage change rather than being oppressed by it.

Many authors address how to implement change from a top-down approach, but little is said about how to be more receptive to change. So how do you adjust your perception of change?

I suggest looking at four steps: self-awareness of your resistance to change; appreciation of the necessity for change; finding opportunities to embrace the change; and actively work within your sphere of influence to cultivate a culture which welcomes change.

Change is often forced upon us and often times we resist, even without knowing why. Resistance to change is not without reason. Often times change is rebutted because it disrupts a comfortable work flow or habit pattern. Other times resistance comes from a lack of "buy in" - change forced from top-down or from outside agents.

A person's awareness of defense mechanisms is the real key. Without an awareness of a bias, one would never think that anything is wrong. Knowing you've got a bias against change is the first step to improving your attitude towards change.

Another important aspect to foster an improved attitude towards change is to understand the reasons for the change. In other words, "why are we doing this?" Understanding the reasons helps a person appreciate the change.

I suggest that a person understand what the impact of the change is on them or on their process. Knowing what the expected outcome and how it benefits the organization and or person is can help the change. Finally, knowing what the organization's role in the change will help smooth the way for the change.

By answering these questions, it helps you understand the necessity for change. Begin to look beyond the barriers to change and see how you're an important part to the change process.

After understanding the reasons, look for ways to implement the changes that work for you and your organization. A good way to accomplish this is work towards a goal.

Set realistic and achievable goals for establishing the change. Since most goals are not a one act achievement, build intermediate steps to get there.

By taking smaller steps, you achieve the larger goal. This can bring the daunting task of change into focus and makes it palatable. These small steps can demonstrate success and improve the buy-in for the change.

The last element is working to spread a culture that welcomes rather than resists change. Nothing affects a person like attitude, either positive or negative. The same can be said of a person's perception of change.

Take charge of change and find the positive aspects of it. Look for wins for you and your organization and implement change on your terms. If enough people encourage change rather than resist it, future efforts are likely to more effective and enacted with less effort.

We've all seen changes work and witnessed them fail. Some were due to poor implementation, others times the new idea just didn't work. Many failings were the result of people discounting change up front and not making the effort to make it succeed.

Next time you're faced with change, which team will you be on? I don't know about you, but the team moving forward actively seeking new ways of moving the mission and doing business sounds like a better team to me.