(Lost in the UP last week; recently “rescued” by the requirements of work…..)
Everyone knows that people are afraid of change. We know this primarily because we are afraid of change. This fear comes on us when change is threatened (there are specific parts of the brain that detect and react to threats):
- People who hate their jobs nonetheless experience anxiety when change in that job is threatened
- Rumors of change are treated as threats
- Anticipating learning a new skill is often experienced as a threat
- Past trauma can enlarge the arena and context of life changes that are experienced as threatening
It seems that our anxiety about change arises from the apparently unpredictable consequences of actual change and our own doubts about our personal or organizational ability to manage it.
- Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know
- Curiosity killed the cat
- Out of the frying pan into the fire
Inability to Manage:
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew
- Too many irons in the fire
- The perfect is the enemy of the good
Advocacy and Change Anxiety
As we gain experience in advocacy action, we learn that it is much easier to develop a plan that seems to promise what we want, than it is to predict the actual consequences of that plan.
There is no better example than the crash of 2008. Quants were smart enough to design derivatives as a hedge against risk but were apparently not smart enough to see how derivatives would be gamed by their own financial community.
It is common for advocacy organizations to become risk-averse over time. This is especially a problem for managers of advocacy organizations who often bear the public brunt of unanticipated consequences and the punishment for organizational failures that have nothing to do with the advocacy mission.
But, to toss in one more common idiom, “practice makes perfect”.
If we expect to become more comfortable with change, we need to practice it. Obviously, we can’t “practice” big change plans daily, but we can practice small changes in ourselves and in our organizations as a standard part of organizational practice.
These small changes will, in fact, produce increased tolerance for change.
They will, in fact, create comfort with an incremental approach to change initiatives, where we try something and check out the results, adjusting our change plan as we come to understand the larger environment and the impacts we are having.
Like any other frightening skill acquisition process (public speaking, giving bad news, flying, and just the general fear of failure), you can gradually become more comfortable through small steps.
Next time, I’ll try to provide personal and organizational examples of small changes that can increase our comfort with change.
Next Post: Getting Good at Change