What drives change? Models on change and transformation suggest that it requires a cause – a critical reason why to change in the first place. This can be a less or more dramatic cause, commonly known as the sense of urgency, or the burning platform. Fair enough. Changing habits, patterns, beliefs and behaviors requires a lot of effort. So why the hassle if it wasn’t for a significant reason?
In reality this does not always seem to work out. Even the most dramatic situation – be it in personal or business life – does not necessarily get the change going. As change communication consultants, we usually address this kind of change resistance by reinforcing the cause; adjusting the cause story; spending time and effort on structuring the upcoming change process into goals, phases, and milestones; and creating toolkits and trainings for managers.
Well, back from an off-site meeting with 25 senior managers who are about to lead through a process of post-merger integration and relocation, I made a stunning observation: Could it be that the sole factor for getting change kicked off is the spirit to do it? Even more: Looking forward to experiencing change, welcoming it wholeheartedly – regardless of how dramatic it is? Organizations that successfully manage to reinvent themselves frequently are put in the box called “highly innovative.”
But what if this isn’t the core of what drives them? What if the core was the pleasure of changing, experiencing new ways, letting go and navigating through uncertainty with a sense of joy? What if organizations staffed with people who score high on openness to experience change are more comfortable leading change?
If that were valid, I think we have to reconsider many of our change communication and engagement approaches in order to get to the core: motivation, drive, contentment. I am not suggesting that it actually is the one and only driver for making change happen. It takes much more to initiate, lead and facilitate change. However, I am convinced it is worth taking into account. Not to mention that it adds a proportion of lightness and effortlessness to a usually heavy task.
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