We’ve all faced change in super-charged fashion and pace in 2020. Whether it’s been quarantined in our houses, dealing with homeschooling, or attempting to pivot our businesses towards relevance, there has been not a single, city dweller across the globe that has been spared the impetus to confront a change in their perspective and way of life.

Jeremy Barty has built a colourful, and richly diverse career on the deeper, inner workings of change. He’s somewhat of a change maverick and grapples with his own journey of transformation as the ultimate guide to his wisdom on change. He has distilled much of his lifelong learning into simplicity on the other side of complexity, and offers three thoughts that can support personal change through these unprecedented times:

  1. Change is not an idea, it’s an action.  You simply cannot think your way through change. You can only act your way to change.
  2. Change happens one micro-action at a time. Breaking down the change into small, repeatable and observable actions will progress all change, either big or small. There are no short cuts or big leaps of change, but many small steps.
  3. Change is best done in community. Sharing with peers and holding each other accountable for the small steps we take increases the successful completion of change. 

When it comes to organisational and group change, Jeremy provides the following guidance and reasons for the high levels of failed change initiatives.

Leaders fail to be the change.  They expect their teams to change, but don’t always actively role-model the change. In big corporations, people at the top of the organisation are given tools and people to support their change, such as coaching and leadership development programmes, but often entry level staff do not receive the same support. This lack of leadership divides organisations into ‘us’ and ‘them’ and the most resistance to change then emerges from people who are least supported in the change, but often required to demonstrate the steepest change.

Resistance to change is real and must be understood and managed.  The failure to identify resistance to change embeds a ‘failure gene’ directly into any change intervention.  Resistance to change is multi-faceted and requires particular attention to the change behind the change; social, systemic and cultural resistance to change; and poor understanding of the psychology of change.

Resistance to the change-behind-the-change: This can emerge because the change required is blocked by another change that is deeper (the change behind the change). For example, the required change may be to adopt a new software, but the change behind the change is digital up-skilling and education of employees. So the resistance is not only to the new software itself, but employees feel digitally incompetent and thus resist all of the change.

Social, systemic and cultural resistance to change: This resistance emerges because the changes that are required are contrary to the traditional culture of the organisation.

Leaders often lack an understanding of the psychology of change: Leaders focus primarily on the project plan and tasks associated with change. They tick boxes and Gantt charts, but fundamentally ignore the inner turmoil of the people impacted by the change.

Change requires a shift in mindset and perspective, and questions are an essential tool to master. Questions initiate the change, but organisations need to think about the change, feel the change and embody the change in alignment with the intention and focus of the desired change.

Here are three questions to get you started when you’ve identified the change that you desire to make either personally or organisationally:

  1. What would you need to let go of to make way for the desired change?
  2. Is there sufficient trust in your culture, or in yourself, to make this change happen?
  3. Where are the points of resistance you have to watch closely as you move through change?

So as the world upends the intention and direction of your year, what deliberate changes do you desire to make in your life? and how can you ensure that you succeed in sustainably shifting your way of thinking and behaving?

Written by Jeremy Barty