Organisational change has many aspects. It is varied, challenging, unpredictable and enervating. And it’s never ending.
But is it fun?
Definitely! There are enough pleasant moments in changing organisations. The sense of euphoria when you achieve results together, the pride when customers appreciate the change, the humour that can be found all over the place when you start to experiment with other behaviour, the team spirit when you shape the change together and the energy boost you get when you are exposed to a powerful source of inspiration.
When someone tells me that he has undergone a change with his organisation, and that it was fun then I don’t believe him. This is because change almost always has a price. You leave something behind that was dear to you, and every new destination has its disadvantages.
The function of friction
But more importantly, I don’t believe that something has really changed. Changing organisations means changing behaviour. Saying goodbye to old behaviour and getting used to new behaviour immediately causes friction. Where the old and the new chafe against each other, emotions of strangeness, confusion, unease, doubt, uncertainty and sadness are released. This friction has an important function. It removes people from the ‘here and now’ so they open up to the future.
Enthousiasm as pitfall
A change leader may say that change is fun because he wants to make people enthusiastic about change this way. But if this means that he only shows people the fun sides of change, they are ill prepared for the disappointments they will undoubtedly encounter. As soon as these disappointments occur and people are overwhelmed by them, this results in friction, which is by no means functional.
An enthusiastic leader has another disadvantage. Someone who has questions, concerns or doubts about a change will feel little room to express this. Enthusiasm is quite directive. And then these questions, concerns and doubts remain unexpressed. If you really want to know how someone is experiencing it, a more realistic setting is better suited than an enthusing one.
Managing change and going through change
If a change leader says that change is fun, he probably means that managing change is fun. And I can only endorse from personal experience that coming up with a new direction, redesigning the organisation, implementing change strategies and facilitating the dialogue about the change is a pleasant and interesting profession.
Still it has something peculiar when leading the change of another person is more enjoyable than going through it yourself.
This is because that would mean that the change leader and his ‘target group’ are in two different worlds.
While change should in fact benefit from the unification of these worlds. If change leaders also change and if the target group can also leave their mark on the change. An additional advantage of mixing roles is that the fun aspects of the journey is more equally divided over all travellers.
There can be no change without friction. The more realistic people are about the process they are going through, the greater the chance is that they will complete the journey together, undoubtedly with enough fun moments along the way.
Annemarie Mars, October 2015