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We want change but we won’t change

I am at the restaurant getting a table for my wife (let’s call her KD) and me for an early dinner. She is walking down from her workplace. I ordered our usual drinks and food and there she was, waving at me and beaming with a smile. A few seconds later when she took the chair opposite me, our eyes met and suddenly she looked PISSED!

Me: What’s wrong? What happened?
KD: YOU. That’s what happened. 
Me: What? What are you talking about?
KD: You don’t look well. What’s wrong with you?
Me: Oh! Yeah. Same thing. That damn office AC. My body just doesn’t agree with that AC. Every time I finish working from the office I have this pounding headache. 
She is quietly listening but her eyes are shooting lasers.
Me: What?
KD: For the 100th time, just go and buy the damn hoodie. Protect your head (I am a bald man).
Me: It’s not that easy. I then have to carry it to work on top of my umbrella. Then my bag won’t fit both of them so I need to get a new bag and I don’t want to go out shopping in this COVID situation.
KD: Office provides lockers. You can buy a hoodie that is rainproof and save the trouble of carrying an umbrella and buying a bigger bag and you can shop online and not need to worry about COVID.
Me: Yeah, ok I will. Soon. Busted!

She then went into a 3 min monologue where she pointed out incident after incident where I have wanted something and have resisted taking any action. I didn’t have anything to say. Suddenly the waiter came with our food and she got interrupted. God bless the chef and the waiter.

Me: Hey food is here. I am starving. Let’s dig in.

She wasn’t prepared to let me off the hook that easily. She gave me a taste of my own medicine by dropping a maxim on me which I drop on others as nuggets of wisdom. So typical of me sad

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining who we are”

My headache was gone but my ego was hurt. I swallowed it with my drink. I promised to buy the hoodie and we moved on to other things. It was happily ever after.

Until I woke in the middle of the night and replayed that earlier conversation in my mind. My mind then jumped to the current client that I am working with and the challenges I am facing with them.

I am an Agile coach and for the past 2 years and I have been working with many teams to uplift their capability in delivering software using agile ways of working. My ongoing quibble with them is that:
“You folks reached out to Thoughtworks for our expertise in this area and asked us to provide you with recommendations and also to help you implement them. You are paying a premium price for our services. During the discovery phase, you tell us about all your challenges and wish list of changes you want to make. But when it comes to implementing those changes, there can sometimes be real hard pushback from  your side (clients) and I wasn't sure where this comes from”

This got me thinking about “Why is change so difficult? “Why is there a resistance to change?” I mean we hear all the time, “change is the only constant”, “change is inevitable” etc. If so then what’s the problem?

Well, inevitably doesn’t make it easy. I believe that in general we all like the idea of change and it is the journey to make that change which is what we are all afraid of. 

So by accepting the fact that change is inevitable, hard and there are going to be hiccups and frustrations along the way, this gives us a perspective to look at the change in a different light. It’s scary but necessary. So let's just move on with it.

Let’s look at some *ideas on first how to communicate the scope of change and next what to keep in mind when implementing the change.

Communicating the scope of change

When introducing a change and dealing with people’s anxiety around that change, it is beneficial to work with people who will be affected by it  and ask them what their concerns are, then put them in one of the boxes it belongs to.

  • Box 1 is for things we we used to be able to do and still can
  • Box 2 is for things we couldn’t do and still can’t
  • Box 3 is for things we we used to be able to do now we can’t 
  • Box 4 is for things we couldn’t do before but now we can.

    Diagram showing the no change (BAU), things we lose and new opportunities

You can see that the first two boxes are business as usual (BAU). There is no change. Things we were able to do and still can and a few things which we couldn’t do and still can’t.

The last box is opportunities. Something which wasn’t possible before but with this new change it will be. It is only the 3rd box that we need to let go of. 

Putting it this way can make it easy for people to understand the scope of the change and deal with the anxiety around the change. It mentally prepares them for the implementation phase.

Now comes the ‘doing’ part. This is where the action is. Literally. Let’s look at it in part 2, the 4 core areas that an organization must take care of to successfully make the changes.

*These are not my original ideas. Unfortunately I can't remember and locate the sources

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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