So you’re in yet another meeting, the discussion is intense. A proposal is out on the table involving some significant changes to the company. These proposed changes are going to test skills, structure, strategic abilities, and political affiliations. The change unknowns are so frightening, that no change, however difficult, might actually be easier. So the “no change” opposition starts to get vociferous before things get really out of hand. Their argument is that the company has tried this kind of thing before and nothing worked. The question is, on previous attempts to affect change, did the company really try and make the move, or did they just control the fall.
The sport of gymnastics is the perfect example of the human mind moving forward with absolute intention because success leaves no room for doubt, and doubt is often followed by a trip to the emergency room. In order to successfully complete a difficult move, there are a certain set of events that must occur. The gymnast usually has to add power, go higher, and not look at the ground. All of these add up to more fear, falling further, and more injuries if the move isn’t successful. So in order to avoid a mishap, the unskilled gymnast pulls back on the power, doesn’t get the required height, and looks for the ground thus putting them out of position. They controlled the fall. The series of events necessary to make the move are different than the series of events necessary to control the fall, and controlling the fall never leads to success.
Well if change is the move, then managing change takes the correct series of events to ensure success. Controling the change fall guarantees failure, which is why so many people have that “we’ve tried changing before and it never works”. It might be possible that in past, the company didn’t put in place the necessary series of events to make the change move. Controlling the fall in an organization often comes in the form of fear that people will leave, going with the cheapest software, promoting the most senior employee instead of the right employee. Avoiding conflict can be controlling the fall. The CEO or the executive team not participating and not setting the strategic vision may be controlling the fall. If discontinuing the “core product line” that built this company is a move that needs to be made to ensure successful change but with it will come a wave of conflict then make the move if that is the right thing to ensure the change is successful.
Fully managing an incomplete change effort is a path to failure. The only result is teaching the troops that the company can’t change. If you’re going to change then go for it. Make the move all the way. After all, you don’t really control the fall. Gravity takes over and you can only really just observe it. When your company manages change, do they make the move or control the fall?