I’m noticing a lot, that ‘change’ is talked about as if it’s a singular thing.
I’m sure you’ve heard statements like these:
“Nobody likes change.”
“People resist change.”
“People don’t change.”
[Putting aside the fact that “people” isn’t a universal constant – my undergrad philosophy and semantics professor would have a field day challenging such statements!]
“Change is hard.”
“Change is constant.”
“Change can’t be managed.”
What change are they talking about?
I believe more granularity is needed; the term “change” is too coarse to be helpful in conversations about leading, managing or designing change.
I’m evolving a list of ‘types’ that might enrich a conversation about change. The genesis of the list comes from my reflections about the change circumstances I have experienced, observed or participated in. These groupings emerged from that reflection.
The choice of words for the types, takes the perspective of the human (a person), not the perspective of an organisation. The examples are contexts in which an individual might experience the catalyst or act of change.
For this particular set of types, a key dimension is the kind of agency (or choices for action) an individual has for that type of change. For different kinds of agency, I posit there are different assumptions; and different strategies for action are indicated. (Fleshing out such thinking is part of the enriched conversation I seek!)
|Type||Description||Context Examples||Choices for action (Agency)|
|Imposed||Done to me/us; without my consent||Demotion; Redundancy; Eviction; Organisational restructure; Merger/Acquisition||react to it; resist it; ignore it; adjust to it|
|Intervention||Done to me/us; others want to stop a bad unacceptable thing||Breach against policy; Criminal act; Substance abuse; Emergency||adjust to it; accept it; negotiate it; fight it|
|Initiated||Started by me/us; we want it||Renovating a house; Having a baby; Resignation; Getting a new job; Building a business; Starting a grassroots movement; Retirement; Emigration||enjoy it; lead it; guide/shape it|
|Invited||Asked to participate; welcomed; with my consent||Promotion; Workplace improvements; Innovating an idea; Immigration; Partnership||accept/receive it; contribute to it; extend it; influence it; negotiate it|
|Incidental||Random; un-anticipated||Earthquake/Natural disaster; Lottery win; Accident/Illness||adapt to it; mitigate for it; recover from it|
|Inevitable||Normal course of events; anticipated; can’t avoid||Aging; Puberty; Seasons; Enterprise growth stage||prepare for it; adapt to it; delay it; hide it; seek it|
Some of the examples above might fit into more than one type – it depends on perspective, e.g. A job promotion or partnership might be Invited or Initiated; a redundancy that is voluntary might be Invited, rather than the other kind which is typically Imposed.
There are, of course, other ways Change might be classified for better conversations (e.g. CONTEXT: Personal/Individual, Team, Organisational, Social.), but I’m starting small.
So that’s it. Enjoy musing and let me know what you think.
• What suggestions do you have for the next iteration?
• Might such a typology help change practitioners to better apply their tool-set, mindsets, knowledge and skill-sets?
Author: Helen Palmer is Founder and Principal Change Agent at Questo. Like Winnie the Pooh, she ‘sits and thinks’ … and imagines how people can have a better experience of work. She likes to share those thoughts with the possibility that they inspire and initiate meaningful change.
This post was simultaneously published on LinkedIn.
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