Why force change?

No bones about it. Change is hard.

Everyone wants it but no one wants to do it. Why?

Like everything that we do in life, there is generally a motivation behind it, whether that motivation is through a want, a need, a desire or an innate responsibility that if we don’t do whatever it is we have to do, something will go against us. More often than not, this is the predicament we find ourselves in as workers in the great organisations of life in which we toil.

Very rarely are we faced with a change process in our work environments that is the equivalent to buying a new car, getting a new phone or trying on a new outfit. These are changes in our life that are exciting (albeit at the incursion of extra expense), nonetheless we anticipate these changes as positive, rewarding and something to really look forward to.

Why then, when change comes to an organisation, be it through a new organisational structure, or a new information system or new business processes do we not respond in the same manner as when we are buying a new car? Like it or not it is generally because we are all fairly selfish individuals who want to know ‘what’s in it for me’. Or for the altruistic amongst us, what’s in it for the greater good. The what’s in it for me scenario, aligns directly to the new car. What do I get out of this change? Change from an individual’s perspective will not get a look in if it is only about the machine or the business.

And this is where is the disconnect occurs between the business and the employee. Too often change is promoted at improving business process, saving money, making things more efficient and effective, creating benefits realisations and efficiency dividends. Conversely, it is a very rare business/organisation indeed that outlines change as something for the employee. There is very little focus on the actual change for the employee. This then creates fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). The individual feels lost, without direction and nothing more than a ‘cog in the machine’.

Because very little of business change processes truly focuses on the change for the individual, the change becomes foisted; forced. Sure, helping people with the change and communicating the change is the bastion of any good project manager or organisational change team, but rarely are resources (and time is included here as a resource) adequately allocated to ensure that change is embraced and wanted by the group rather than delivered through subliminal ultimatums. Subsequently, any change that is brought in with this method is more often than not met with objection and disdain.

In order for employees to embrace change, to want it, they have to see why they would want it, What’s in it for them. Not the organisation, not the client or the customer but the employee. And that from a change perspective is hard. Very hard.

Why? Because again, more often that not, these changes are quite often about workforce reduction, cost minimisation, improving return to stakeholders. Again, it is rare for change to be about the worker, about improving conditions for the worker, improving relations between management and employees. Any improvement for workers is seen as a by product of the change and not the reason for change.

Any change that is forced, that is foisted is fraught with danger, both for the employer and more so for the employee. If an organisation cannot clearly outline the benefits for the change for the individual the organisation could find itself hoist upon its own petard in venturing down the change path purely for financial and economical gain.

Even though they are scientific, Newton’s first and third laws of motion hold true in this scenario.

  1. Every object will remain … in uniform motion … unless compelled to change its state by forces impressed upon it.
  2. For every action and there is an equal and opposite re-action.

It is only when humans are impressed will they change, otherwise forced change will be met with an equal force of resistance.


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