Why change feels hard

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Humans are most comfortable in an environment where a specific action causes a predictable outcome. We run and become fitter. We read books on a chosen subject and become more knowledgeable. We can easily understand this straightforward, linear environment and can operate in it without difficulty.

However, we sometimes experience complicated situations where knowledge alone isn’t enough to predict the outcome. 

In complicated situations, we need to draw on our instinct to help. This is the world of surgeons, architects and criminologists – people who need the foundation of knowledge, but also use their experience and instinct to help them be the best they can be in their jobs. Humans comfortably operate in both of these environments. They make sense to our rational selves and we broadly understand them.

But change in today’s business world is often complex, one step further than complicated. Cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect, which means knowledge and instinct alone are no longer enough.  

It’s a natural human tendency to try to manage the environment by pulling on our knowledge, instinct and experience – irrespective of how complex the environment is. But regardless of how hard we try, we fail to achieve the outcome we expect. And we struggle to understand why, even though it’s simply because our overall environment is complex. 

These different environments are mapped within the Cynefin framework, which is designed to support decision making by helping us to understand the environment around us. Additionally, the Stacey Matrix is beneficial when trying to understand the two factors that contribute to complexity: agreement and certainty.

We need to take a different approach

To deliver successful change we say to our clients, ‘be different, be change ready’.

To do that we make sure our clients have the solid foundations of change in place first. Strategy, leadership, people, customer, delivery and value – these are the S&S ChangeReady 6. When organisations are strong across all of these foundations, it doesn’t matter that change rarely runs in a linear fashion because they are in the best possible place to navigate the complexities of change.

With the right foundations in place, the organisation becomes confident to sense, experiment and learn so they can adapt quickly. Google knows this. As a business built on innovation, it says, “Experimentation is the engine that drives innovation.” Experimentation means an organisation is always learning, which is critical to success in our complex world. Furthermore, if an experiment fails, it fails fast and doesn’t drain your resources. And when an experiment is successful, you can capitalise quickly and roll it out to the wider business without delay.

Keep questioning your business

At S&S we’re advocates of the need to ‘flip the script’. Companies often tend to follow the status quo without questioning whether it’s the right thing to do for their business, people or customers. At S&S we gently challenge everything and encourage our clients to do the same, because we know that ultimately it leads to better outcomes and greater value.

Want to know more about how S&S can help you and your organisation?

  • Ask us about a ChangeReady 6 Assessment to discover what steps your organisation needs to take to be in the best position for success.

Get in touch  

Jacqueline Shakespeare
Written by Jacqueline Shakespeare
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