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A Millennial’s Take on Change: Why is it So Hard?

The biggest obstacle an organization will face today is… change. Why is that so hard to believe?


Having already experienced two acquisitions as a professional, I can safely conclude that learning to be nimble and flexible in an ever-changing environment is and will be an ongoing topic of conversation for generations to come. I would go as far as to say, for all of eternity? Not only because most organizations are ill-prepared for change to occur (which most are, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here), but even more importantly, on a psychological level, we’re hard-wired to resist change. With resistance comes great throwback.

More often than not, change insinuates discomfort and the unfamiliar, and we don’t like that. We shy away from discomfort and run to consistency and predictability to ensure our welfare. In short, let’s put it this way, we’re predisposed to avoid “pain.” The growing pains of change are very real, hence, this topic isn’t going away anytime soon.

Micro and Macro Changes

Rosabeth Kanter from the Harvard Business Journal lists off Top Ten Reasons People Resist Change, and you guessed it, pain is one of them. So if change is so painful, why do it? Why bother? I want to focus on one reason for today: survival. But, before we do that, let’s lower the stakes… let’s hone in on business and “minor” personal survival. Whether it be in business or in our personal worlds, the reality of change occurring is inevitable. Some encounter change on a daily basis, from micro to macro instances.

Indulge me with these examples:

  • You’re driving to work and hit traffic – you decide to take an alternative route. Micro change. You didn’t plan on changing your commuter route that day, but you did.
  • You’re at Starbucks. They ran out of coffee (God forbid), so you order a tea. Micro change that you didn’t plan on, but you accepted your fate and ordered tea.

How about some macro changes, a bit more business-oriented…

  • You walk into work and the first thing you hear out of your boss’s mouth is: “you’re fired.” Your company is cutting costs and your position has become obsolete in their eyes… Nothing you planned on experiencing today, but it happened and you’re left with trying to figure out what’s next.
  • Your organization announces a cloud migration. You have no idea who, what, or where the cloud resides. Internal chaos ensues.

Simple, right? Micro changes are less weighty with much less consequence. It’s safe to say, you’d survive a Starbucks coffee shortage. Macro changes, on the other hand, are a different beast that makes or breaks people, and even organizations. This is especially true when millions of dollars (dare I say billions? e.g. Wells Fargo) and people’s livelihoods are at stake.

Corporate Statistical Insight

To prove my point, according to a study by LeadershipIQ.com, the common belief that a CEO gets fired because of “current financial performance” is simply erroneous. The study concluded that “31% of CEO get let go because of poor change management, 28% for ignoring customers, 27% for tolerating low performers, 23% for denying reality and 22% for too much talk and not enough action” (LeadershipIQ). At the heart of every organization, there’s some type of change management initiative in motion, officially or unofficially, managed properly or failing miserably. Continue reading about this 4-year study to better understand how our fixation on financial performance clouds our perspectives in regards to corporate change.

study results graph on why the CEO gets fired

LeadershipIQ study results on why the CEO gets fired

Biggest Takeaways

So in light of this reality, change management professionals are a hot commodity these days and rightly so. CMPs bring control and order to chaos amidst uncertainty, confusion, and lack of confidence. They work wonders in securing buy-in from your employees, effectively layout communication and action plans, and much more. For it’s worth, I would argue that you probably don’t need a CMP for your daily decisions, or maybe? You decide.

Chaos into order graphic

The art of change management is not to eliminate the pain of change altogether, but to alleviate it. CMPs aren’t healing wizards. They are more like doctors who write prescriptions to alleviate symptoms of a chronic condition.

I’m no change management professional by any means (just very observant and facts-driven), but honestly, you don’t have to be to realize change is a part of life. You must learn how to deal with it. One of the biggest misconceptions, myths if you will, about change management is that just because you’re introducing change and managing a project, it doesn’t mean you’re actually managing change.

This debunk says it all: “Just because you are introducing a change does not mean that you are managing the people side of that change. Change management is a systematic approach to accelerate adoption and mitigate resistance” (Tim Creasey, Prosci Blog). The importance of having a dedicated team of trained change practitioners aiding your journey cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to your bottom line and more importantly, the overall health of your team, department, or organization. I’m a firm believer in systematic approaches that help manage tough journeys oriented around change. They really do work.

To Hammer This Home…

Remember, the art of change management is not to eliminate the pain of change altogether, but to alleviate it. CMPs aren’t healing wizards. They are more like doctors who write prescriptions to alleviate symptoms of a chronic condition.

To read more about our Organizational Change Management practice, click here.

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