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

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dr. Warren Bennis on Change Management

This post concerns part of an interview of a couple of years ago, in which David Wright speaks with Warren Bennis, best-selling author of numerous books on Leadership, presidential advisor, consultant to many Fortune 500 companies, and top speaker on management. I choose the piece below because it reminds us of the importance of three crucial change processes: involving, informing, and educating the people involved. Nothing shocking, nothing complicated, but so often overlooked and underestimated by change makers.
Warren Bennis: “Change isn’t necessarily something that is resisted at all times by all people. I think, in some cases, there are people who really anticipate, look forward to and thrive on change. And in this world, if they don’t, they’re going to miss the train. There’s not an institution that I know, not a profession that I’m aware of, that isn’t undergoing constant and spastic change. Change is now the constant. Even though it may not be a natural act for certain people, I think it’s something that everyone has got to understand. Take education, for example. It’s no longer just four years of college. Education is really turning into a process of lifelong learning. Universities are going to have to take responsibility not just for their alumni but for people in much older age groups, who have to keep learning because the half-life of professions is shrinking every day.
The way organizations must deal with change is by helping people realize that in the process of changing they’re going to benefit from all sorts of educational programs and opportunities. The people have to be involved in the change, because if they are part of the process, they’re much less threatened by change. There are a lot of reasons why most people resist change, but among the most important is their reliance on old habits, especially the ones that have been successful. Related to that is self-esteem. If you’re doing something extremely well, are pretty successful at it, getting a lot of rewards for it and your sense of self-esteem is based on your competence, it’s got to be difficult if you’re put into a totally different and new situation. Organizations have to help people get into a safe “holding pattern” where -they can learn new skills without it being a threat to their self-esteem. So to summarize, people have got to be involved in the change, they have got to be informed of the change, and they have got to be educated and put into a safe holding area where they’re not going to be overly threatened by change”.
From "Taking Charge - Lessons in Leadership" by Insight Publishing Company

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