The Perils Of Change

Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said ‘Change is the only constant’ and that statement continues to ring true today, almost 2000 years later. Continuous improvement is the ongoing effort to achieve best practice and as a result improve a company’s product or service, and, by its very nature, this requires organisations to change and adapt. However, as important as change is, it can do more damage than good if it is not handled correctly.

The diagram below shows the general division of how people initially react to change in an organisation. On the far right you have the ‘change enthusiasts’, the individuals that fall into this category love the thrill of the challenge and feel secure enough in their position to champion the change at every occasion. They are closely followed by those who shoe initial hesitance at the thought of change but if given the opportunity they will offer support and attempt to be included at the first opportunity they are given. Both of these groups will actively welcome change within the organisation.

Reactions to change diagram

On the far left sits the ‘change terrorists’ a group of individuals that fiercely oppose and resist the change, and will block (or in rare situations sabotage) the change at every given opportunity. Following on from this group falls the cynics and ‘yes butters’. These individuals consider the change to be a threat and will withdraw and resist the change, but unlike the ‘terrorists’ the cynics are willing to change their opinion and will relent if they see that there is no other viable option. Both of these groups will actively resist the change initially.

In between these two extremes fall all of the remaining individuals. These individuals will neither resist or boost the idea of change initially and express no opinions on how they feel about the situation. It is this group that will cast the deciding vote on the success of the change process, and will follow the opinion that is the most prominent.

In most cases people will act based on what they perceive to be in their best interests, and are more at ease when the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor is addressed. By including them as much as is feasibly possible in the change process, and by giving them the quantity and quality of information that will allow them to make as rational a decision as the circumstances will allow, they will feel as though the change has meaning for them. Thanks to this feeling, those involved will find greater comfort in regards to what is going on around them, allowing them to be more accepting and engaged with the change process.

In our most recent article David discussed how he worked for an organisation that had fallen into a ‘Just Ship It’ mindset which ended with them suffering from an ineffective fire fighting method of working. Yet when a new Technical Director attempted to implement a change that would bring the company towards the idea of ‘getting it right first time’ and achieving best practice, they were unable to override the habit.

As a forward thinking company Zircon likes to encourage change as it allows us to continue improving to achieve this concept of best practice. We strive to learn from our mistakes, and on the few occasions we do encounter problems we make changes to how we work to prevent a reoccurrence of the same mistake. By making these little changes on a consistent basis we ensure that our staff are more accepting of change and don’t become fixed on a single concept. With every change we make we take great care to consider the feelings of our employees and do our upmost to ensure that they understand the reasoning behind each change and feel as comfortable as possible. We always endeavour to never make change for changes sake.