Questioning the feasibility of change

When changes are not feasible, the rank and file fold their arms, roll their eyes and say "here we go again". The implementors hold the cards and resist the revolution. They know the plan will appear to fail in execution because the plan is ill conceived without their input, insights and perspectives. No amount of convincing them will revise how the change is not yet feasible in their minds.

Yesterday, a bounty of wonderful comments were added to Steve Roesler's blog post: Change: Success Starts Before the Change Begins. They all revealed ways for the feasibility of a change to be increased by investing in relationships before beginning a change effort. The transformation of the mutual context makes the change appear less threatening, imposing and manipulative. People become more trusting, accepting, responsible and strategic when engaged in authentic relationships. They return the favor of getting trusted and accepted by leaders who take that as their responsibility.

As Steve said:
I wonder what would happen if we were all required--before asking for some kind of change--to clearly explain "why" it will be better and "relationships" required to make it succeed and endure? The rule would be: no action can be started until everyone says "OK, I get it". They don't have to think it's wonderful--just that it is well thought-out, has a business benefit, and there is additional clarity about the human factors.
I've found in my consulting that changes become more feasible when the feasibility is formally questioned. Rather than assume the change will happen, I assume it won't until proven otherwise. I question whether it makes sense to buy-into the big idea. I wonder whether the right people will own it and follow through on the implementation details. I suspect there is a legacy of failed implementation from previous change efforts that dismisses the new change out of hand. I look for signs of the proposed change "killing the goose that lays the golden eggs", doing more harm than good and disrupting the under-valued heroics.

When an organization is allowed to question the sanity, validity and feasibility of the change, the members buy-into the process of finding a feasible change to create. They realize they have some say-so, control and power to use wisely. Their viewpoints become more comprehensive and long range. They consider more tradeoffs and see both sides of more issues. They stop opposing the change as a knee-jerk reaction and consider more alternative scenarios, criteria and combinations of intentions. They agree to disagree, see validity in opposing ideas and welcome diverse outlooks.

That's quite a change from "making change happen". I wonder if it feasible to stop imposing changes?


  1. The key word here is IMPOSING changes.

    In an ideal world - organizational change would occur somewhat organically. There is a known problem that is clear to all. The change process is triggered only when a solution presents itself.

    Input is sought from ALL affected (not just the managers) as to whether that solution is truly better or will create more problems. The underlings have a much better grip on how things acually happen and the often invisible workings of the organization.

    It shouldn't simply be a matter of explaining "why" it would be better. You (and the affected parties) will figure it out from discussing "if" it will be better. It's getting people involved in the DECISION for change rather than the buy-in.

    At least - that's the way it would happen in my fantasy world....

    The action of change is so much more glamorous than meandering around the office gathering opinions from the underlings.

    Opinion-gathering can be demoralizing and grueling if you have your heart set on a particular decision.

    And I wonder how many organizations are truly serious about creating lasting improvements (rather than just creating more "project excitement")

    Just some thoughts.....

  2. Thanks for these wonderful ideas Wendy. I morphed them into an entire new post!