Why change requires a crisis

Maxim #31
Change requires a crisis

maxim_31Most, if not all people, resist change.

It is a natural part of our biology and an inherent element of our survival instincts. Sociologists believe that change robs people of their sense of control because it presents a new environment or an unfamiliar pattern of behavior. Because we don’t like to lose control and we favor the predictable over the unpredictable, many of us would never change if we didn’t have to. Few people seek change for the sake of change. What drives people to change is some kind of external or internal force that tells them that staying with the current path is more dangerous than trying a new path. Change requires a sense of fear or urgency. In other words, change requires a crisis of some sorts.

To get people to change, they must genuinely believe there is a crisis of some kind that requires them to change. Managers must avoid inadvertently negating the crisis message by saying things like, “we’re going to give this new way a try and see if it works,” or, “we’re just testing this new system, don’t worry nothing’s carved in stone.” Running a new process with the old process still being used in parallel also makes it too easy to revert back to the old ways of doing things. Management needs to get their new methods lined up, tested and trialed and then move forward without the slightest hint that going back to the old ways is an option.

For change to be sustainable, people must give up the status quo and adopt new ways of doing things. To do this they must understand mechanically how to change and have the basic skills required to adopt the new methods. However, even if people can physically do it, they may not continue to do it for long unless they can clearly see some personal benefit for the change. Or they see some negative consequence that will affect them if they stop doing it.