What Are You Assuming: Stability or Change?

Sometimes situations can be so difficult and unpleasant that we long for change - it can't come fast enough. At other times, we are perfectly happy in our circumstances and wish things would never change. But whether we regard time as our friend or foe, things inevitably change.

We all face the same reality of change, but some handle it better than others. How well we handle it has less to do with our external circumstances and more to do with what goes on inside of us - the attitudes, assumptions, and resources we bring to the circumstances we face.

Take assumptions as an example. Traditionally, the holy trinity of management has been control, organise, and plan. What assumptions lie beneath this well-trodden surface? The assumption is that we can control, organise and plan. And that we can predict what will happen in the future so we know what to control, organise, and plan. And that we will continue to have the knowledge and skills in the future to handle whatever the future brings.

How confident can we be in these assumptions? I am not suggesting for one minute that we don't need management, but I am suggesting we need to make valid assumptions, and act accordingly. If history tells us anything it's that leaders and organizations fail when they assume things will always stay the same. Kodak assumed people would always use film. US lenders assumed sub-prime lending was OK. Greece assumed a growing deficit was safe. Increasingly, things change on a global scale, and these changes affect us all.

If assuming stability is risky, is assuming change any less risky? It all depends on how you act on your assumptions. Using your manager's crystal ball, you may predict certain changes on the horizon and prepare for them. This is a sound strategy, provided your crystal ball isn't tuned to the wrong frequency, in which case you may be totally unprepared for what arrives. In the worst case scenario, you could be like Xerxes long ago; watching all your ships vanish below the waters simply because you were not ready for reality.

However, what if your assumption of change does not lead to prediction? What if it leads to behaviour that promotes general change readiness? People who are ready for change in a general sense are more ready to handle whatever the future throws at them. They have the resources, skills, and stories to handle change well - any kind of change, whether they choose it or not.

Managers and leaders who build the general change readiness of their teams can control, organise, and plan, knowing that even if their plans are not realised, their organizations will still be adaptable and skilled at handling the uncertainties of the future.

So what are you assuming - stability or change? How are your assumptions affecting your behaviour? In this time of rapid and uncertain change, it is important how you answer these questions.

Steve Barlow PhD is a change management and organizational development consultant and change readiness specialist. Steve is Director of Redequip Pty Ltd.

Article Source: Steve Barlow

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