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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Change management and Kant’s four questions – part 4

As you might have read in my earlier posts, 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant tried to answer four questions in his philosophy:
1.    What can I know?
2.    What do I have to do?
3.    What can I hope for?
4.    What is the human being?
In my previous three posts on this topic I addressed all but the last question as I am applying these questions to change management in a practical manner, so as to possibly get you thinking about change management from a different perspective. I believe that’s what management, leadership, and life is all about: being able and willing to see, appreciate, and use different perspectives to your advantage, to broaden your vision, to think outside your box, and to seriously consider what you might perceive to be impossible?
In this post I will address the fourth question: What is the human being?
To some this question seems obsolete. A human being is just that: a living person. To others, like philosophers, it’s been the source of many ponderings and inquiries into the nature of the human being, into our ancestors, into the relationship to the Great Apes, and into the motivations and workings of a person. I could therefore take many roads from here to address the question. I choose not to delve into sociological, philosophical, psychological or other explanations of the human being. I leave that to the respective experts in these fields. I merely want to stress the following three (out of many) characteristics of the human being and relate them to change management.
Characteristic 1: Self-consciousness – encourage your employees to be conscious and aware of themselves and how they relate to the change process, including what is traditionally perceived as resistance. Have them contemplate constructively what they worry about, what remains unclear, what they need from others to embrace the changes, and how they can optimally aid the change process. In a broader sense, coach your employees in increasing their self-knowledge around topics like risk-taking, flexibility, personal growth, and courage.
Characteristic 2: Free will – encourage and, if necessary, have your employees coached on the notion and ability to consciously choose their attitude and their behavior in order for your employees to take responsibility and ownership for what they show and accomplish and for how they relate to the changes, whether they are happy with them or not. As Viktor Frankl stated so clearly: the last freedom that no one can take away from you is the freedom of choice – the choice of attitude.
Characteristic 3: Uniqueness – each organism and therefore each person is unique and responds to changes in a unique manner. Use each employee’s unique skills, insights, drives, and input and see where this person fits in and what she can bring to the ‘change table’. Also, encourage that person to see, appreciate, and use this uniqueness to the advantage of the learning and changing organization. Team up the ‘worrying type’ with the ‘ever optimistic type’. They can add new, valuable perspectives to each other and to the organization. Do not just regard them as resistant or difficult people. Someone seemingly blocking the change process might be just the right person to guard risks and dangers involved.  

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