Understanding of The Change Process
This chapter draws together the key theories of how individuals go through change, using various models to explore this phenomenon. The aims of this chapter are to give managers and others experiencing or implementing change an understanding of the change process and how it impacts individuals, and strategies to use when helping people through change to ensure results are achieved.
This chapter covers the following topics, each of which takes a different perspective on individual change:
- Learning and the process of change – in what ways can models of learning help us understand individual change?
- The behavioral approach to change – how can we change people’s behavior?
- The cognitive approach to change – how change can be made attractive to people and how people can achieve the results that they want.
- The psychodynamic approach to change – what’s actually going on for people.
- The humanistic psychology approach to change – how can people maximize the benefits of change?
- Personality and change – how do we differ in our responses to change?
- Managing change in self and others – if we can understand people’s internal experience and we know what changes need to happen, what is the best way to effect change?
As the box points out, a key point for managers of change is to under- stand the distinction between the changes being managed in the external world and the concurrent psychological transitions that are experienced internally by people (including managers themselves).
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It was the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who maintained that you never step into the same river twice. Of course most people interpret that statement as indicating that the river – that is, the external world – never stays the same, is always changing: constant flux, in Heraclitus’s words again. However, there is another way of interpreting what he said. Perhaps the ‘you’ who steps into the river today is not the same ‘you’ who will step into the river tomorrow. This interpretation – which might open up a whole can of existential and philosophical worms – is much more to do with the inner world of experience than with the external world of facts and figures.
Immediately therefore we have two ways of looking at and responding to change: the changes that happen in the outside world and those changes that take place in the internal world. Often though, it is the internal reaction to external change that proves the most fruitful area of discovery, and it is often in this area that we find the reasons external changes succeed or fail.
In order to demonstrate this, we will draw on four approaches to change. These are the behavioural, the cognitive, the psychodynamic and the humanistic psychological approaches, as shown in Figure 1.1.
The underpinning theory
We will also look at Edgar Schein’s analysis of the need to reduce the anxiety surrounding the change by creating psychological safety. This is further illuminated by discussion of the various psychodynamics that come into play when individuals are faced with change, loss and renewal.
Finally we will explore tools and techniques that can be used to make the transition somewhat smoother and somewhat quicker. This will include a summary of how the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™, which is used to develop personal and interpersonal awareness, can illuminate the managerial challenges at each stage of the individual change process. But first we will begin our exploration by looking at how individuals learn.
LEARNING AND THE PROCESS OF CHANGE
Buchanan and Huczynski (1985) define learning as ‘the process of acquiring knowledge through experience which leads to a change in behaviour ’. Learning is not just an acquisition of knowledge, but the application of it through doing something different in the world.
Many of the change scenarios that you find yourself in require you to learn something new, or to adjust to a new way of operating, or to unlearn something. Obviously this is not always the case – a company takes over your company but retains the brand name, the management team and it is ‘business as usual’ – but often in the smallest of changes you need to learn something new: your new boss’s likes and dislikes, for example.
A useful way of beginning to understand what happens when we go through change is to take a look at what happens when we first start to
The inner world of change
Figure 1.1 Four approaches to individual change
learn something new. Let us take an example of driving your new car for the first time. For many people the joy of a new car is tempered by the nervous- ness of driving it for the first time. Getting into the driving seat of your old car is an automatic response, as is doing the normal checks, turning the key and driving off. However, with a new car all the buttons and control panels might be in different positions. One can go through the process of locating them either through trial and error, or perhaps religiously reading through the driver ’s manual first. But that is only the beginning, because you know that when you are actually driving any manner of things might occur that will require an instantaneous response: sounding the horn, flashing your lights, putting the hazard lights on or activating the windscreen wipers.
All these things you would have done automatically but now you need to think about them. Thinking not only requires time, it also requires a ‘psychological space’ which it is not easy to create when driving along at your normal speed. Added to this is the nervousness you may have about it being a brand new car and therefore needing that little bit more atten- tion so as to avoid any scrapes to the bodywork.
As you go through this process, an external assessment of your perfor- mance would no doubt confirm a reduction in your efficiency and effec- tiveness for a period of time. And if one were to map your internal state your confidence levels would most likely dip as well. Obviously this anxiety falls off over time. This is based on your capacity to assimilate new information, the frequency and regularity with which you have changed cars, and how often you drive.