Change is something we’re told to embrace and those who don’t are often the subject of criticism. The suggestion that embracing change is wholly positive is one which doesn’t sit that well with me and the whole concept is much more complex than that.
I’ve been in meetings where we’ve discussed our theory of change and how to bring people along with us. That in itself wasn’t controversial however there were a number of parts which were missing in the thinking in my view.
So what was missing?
The end goal was determined by a small group of people working at a senior level. Conception can, and often does, start at a senior level however the voices and opinions of those who are directly impacted by the change must be heard.
The contextual parameters weren’t clearly defined. By this I mean that although there was recognition of what the potential barriers might be, it was still framed by the people in the room with their own perspectives and lenses.
There were assumptions made about the reason for the change. Again, the decision made by the few impacted on the many and did not draw from robust and accurate evidence or presentation of the facts. The gaps were filled in and decisions were made by those in the room.
The premise was that all change is good based on a statement of ‘if you always do what you always done; you always get what you always got’. I understand and appreciate this however it didn’t take account of what was working well and what should be kept. At times if felt like it was change for the sake of change.
The final part missing for me was ownership. This is linked to the above points but in my opinion probably stands on its own. There was potentially an arrogance (including by me) that this group knew best and what was best for people. There was a nod to consultation but in no meaningful way and certainly it could have been described as tokenistic. The people affected directly didn’t own the changes - they were the victims of it.
This probably sounds as if I’m not a fan of change. In fact, the opposite is true. I’ve experienced significant life changes particularly in the past 5 years or so. I have the ability to take change in my stride and move forward purposefully however I have learned that change for most people needs the additions of compassion, kindness, openness, transparency, collaboration, consultation and most importantly ownership. People need to understand the purpose and rationale for change as well as having sincere and authentic opportunities to evaluate and critique the proposed changes along with celebrating what is already working.
Fundamentally, to initiate change meaningfully it needs to have substance. We all experience changes over which we have little or no control however when enacting change with others, we should wherever possible listen carefully to them.