How To Be Effective In Change Management – And Not Just In The Office

Sometimes we do not even realize it. That life is all about change. We may think of life’s road turning into a different direction or getting new responsibilities at work. But change is happening in a much smaller context as well. And it is happening every day, throughout the day. Without properly dealing with change, life can become like finding your way up the mountain in a blizzard. So, ask yourself this question: “How effective are you in your change management process?” If you aren’t quite sure, or you are too sure of managing the job of dealing with change, read on.

Change is the only constant

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, change is the only constant in our lives. When I look at my own experiences, I can only confirm Heraclitus’ observation.

“Change is the only constant.” – Heraclitus (Greek philosopher)

I have worked in different international organizations and with transnational teams across the globe. Work and the work setting were all about changes. The type of change was diverse, from working groups to policy. Through adjustments, we reflect, learn, and develop. Managing change was a constant factor.

Not just in the office, the managing of changes can also be seen outside the office. One of the places to observe constant change is up in the mountains. As a mountaineer, I have experienced change in all its dimensions. Climbing, especially high-altitude mountaineering, can be very well used as a metaphor in the change management process.

Change management: loosening or tightening

What becomes certain, whether being at high-altitude, in the office or at home, is that managing change is about identifying risks. It is about determining to what extent we can either mitigate those risks or accept the fact that we take on a degree of uncertainty outside of our control.

For every action we take in daily life, we (un)consciously weigh the pros and cons. We decide many times a day whether we opt for a change or to stay with the same. We either manage change through a conscious structured approach, aiming to implement changes smoothly and thoroughly. Or we barely manage change actively and let the winds of change blow us where they may.

Successful change management also has a lot to do with whether you are in a position to choose for that change to happen. Life’s changes that come unexpectedly and outside of our sphere of control can have quite a different effect on people.

Why are some people sailing gently through all the changes life throws at them, while others even get upset if they have to change their breakfast cereal?

The Change Curve

Although change can have different effects on people, plenty of evidence shows that everyone goes through the same process when dealing with change. In some cases, however, the stages of change may take longer or shorter than others.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross designed a ‘Change Curve’ model in the 1960s. This model derives from her work in which she analyzed terminally ill patients and their grieving process. Five stages identified the personal transition that people typically experience when they deal with change: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

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