The Change Monster

The Change Monster

          
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The Change Monster

The Human Forces That Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation and Change

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    In This Article
    • Changing an organization is an inherently emotional human process.
    • People share a pattern of experiences when they go through major change—a pattern described by the Change Curve—and those experiences can be managed or at least guided.
    • The Change Curve applies to the change efforts of virtually every kind of entity, from nonprofits to government  agencies to large corporations.
     

    Battling the Monster: The Need to Think and Behave Differently

    I’m crazy for chocolate—dark chocolate, that is. Some years ago, a friend of mine sent me, from California, a two-pound box of See’s dark chocolate nuts and chews. I was in heaven! As I was oohing and aahing over the box and generally making a fool of myself, my daughter Jennifer, then age three, joined in the excitement. This was a bad sign. If she was excited it was because she expected to share in my newly acquired bounty. Clearly the only way I could get rid of her was to share, so I gave her a piece and sent her to bed. Then I had “just a few” pieces for myself, and went to bed.

    Later that night, we had one of those glorious storms so common to Alabama—thunder, lightning, wind, and rain. I got up in the dark and went from room to room, closing the open windows. As I did, I stepped on something crunchy on the hallway. When I turned on the light, I saw that the floor was covered with little round pieces of dark brown paper. I followed the trail of candy wrappers just like the Yellow Brick Road, only instead of the Emerald City being at the end, I found a totally empty box of See’s candy! I was stunned. I thought, “She’s only three, for goodness sake! How could she possibly polish off two pounds of chocolate?”

    I found Jennifer sound asleep in her bed, looking angelic. (Actually, I think she was in a glucose stupor; in any case, she was out for the count.) The next morning, I confronted her.

    “Jennifer Duck, you ate all my candy!”

    “No I didn’t,” she immediately replied with a look of earnestness and fear on her face.

    “Oh yes you did.” I said. “Only two people live here—you and me—and I didn’t do it!”

    She hung her head. Then, quietly, she mumbled, “I wish I had a baby brother!”

    I’ve never forgotten that incident, much to Jennifer’s chagrin—not because of my great chocolate loss, but because Jennifer’s response was so to the point. We all have a natural desire to find someone else to blame whenever we’re caught doing something wrong or found lacking. I know only too well how she felt. When I realize I have forgotten to fulfill a commitment—whether it’s to send a document, to call someone who has asked for some help before a meeting, or to schedule that lunch I’ve been promising a friend—I feel bad. All too often, I look for someone or some circumstance or event that will excuse or justify my behavior. At least I’ve learned to do this silently and to stop myself once I realize what I’m doing. I recount this story about my daughter because it exemplifies a central realization of change, a time when we must say to ourselves, “I need to behave differently.” We may also need to think differently, to take on a different perspective (or several), to practice new skills, to extend ourselves in new and often demanding ways.

    To accomplish change of this kind takes courage. Not the kind of courage we hear about in the news: “Man Saves Child from Sure Death” or “Woman Quells Riot Single-handedly.” No, this kind of courage doesn’t make headlines. It’s a personal struggle that we see as mundane. Without taking away any credit from the heroes behind those headlines, I would suggest that it is an even greater and more difficult act of heroism to change ourselves. When people who have performed bravely in dramatic situations are interviewed, they say something like, “It was pure instinct. I’m no hero.” Or, in the case of firefighters, police, and similar professionals, “This is what we’re trained for. I was just doing my job.” When people who act as change agents in companies are interviewed, they often say, “If I’d known then what I know now, I don’t know if I would have signed up for this.” Or, “This change initiative was like going on a diet, giving up drinking, and quitting smoking—all at the same time. I’m sure glad it’s over.” Or, “I’ve never worked so hard or learned so much.” Or, “It was the most exhilarating and memorable time of my entire life.”

    Excerpted from The Change Monster: The Human Forces That Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation & Change by Jeanie Daniel Duck, by arrangement with Crown Business, a member of the Crown Publishing Group, Random House, Inc. Copyright © 2001, Jeanie Daniel Duck.
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