3 Images on Leading Change

I enjoy using images to share ideas.Embracing-Resisting-and-Inspiring-Change-David-Truss In a post on my Pair-a-Dimes blog, I shared the ‘Embracing Change’ image, also shared below. As I said in the post:

“…we’ need to recognize that:
* Change isn’t usually easy.
* Change only happens when we create a need.
* Change is not a thought or a discussion, but an action.
* The time to act is now.

“If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”

The idea is simple. The greater the importance we place on something, the greater the challenge we are willing to face. We will find a way! However, if it is not important enough, then it is much easier to make excuses than it is to make the effort to face the challenge or to change.

Change happens when: Importance > Challenge.

Despite saying, ‘the idea is simple’, I’ve come to realize that there are a few nuances about the original image that could be explained in a bit more detail than I provided. I’ve also created a couple more images, ‘Resisting Change’ and ‘Inspiring Change’ to contribute further to the conversation on change. If change happens when importance is greater than challenges, what can we do to increase importance and reduce challenges?

1. Embracing Change

One of the key elements of this image is the 1:1 relationship represented by the 45 degree slope. Any point on that slope (where I’ve placed the stairs) has the relationship of Importance = Challenge. Anywhere above that slope represents a point where Importance is greater than Challenge (and so we are likely to find a way to change). Anywhere below the slope represents a point where Challenge is greater than Importance (and so we are likely to find the challenge too great to change).

So ultimately, when we are implementing change we would want to create an environment where we either increase the importance or where we decrease the challenges we face. Accepting a 1:1 ratio is not leading. Furthermore, without leadership, guidance and support, the challenges will often make the status quo more likely than change.

2. Resisting Change

I believe that systems tend to resist change. There is an inherent comfort in maintaining an equilibrium and not ‘going against the grain’, not ‘challenging the status quo‘, and not, ‘stirring the pot’. Many of the Metaphors We Live By are ones that make change agents out as ‘poop disturbers’.

One interesting point here is around ‘tradition’. I think Traditon can be important and should be valued in an organization, but I also think that ‘tradition’ can be used as an excuse to keep things the same, when really they need to be changed.

With a lack of leadership, or within a culture where innovation is not appreciated, it is far more likely that things will not change. TTWWADI – “That’s The Way We Always Do it” will often prevail unless explicit importance for change is valued and shared. If the importance isn’t shared, the very people that you want to implement change can be the ones who increase the challenges and ‘feed’ the systems that resist change.

3. Inspiring Change

If we truly want to embrace change, to inspire others to change, then we need to think about what we do to lead change. How do we, (no matter what our position is in an organization), create an environment where the change we seek is far more important to achieve than any challenges that might get in the way?

Three quick thoughts on what is needed.

1. Vision: A common vision and purpose around what is possible and how this can be achieved. Change for the sake of change is not an ideal outcome. If we know change is hard, then we need to make sure the reasons for changes are well thought out, understood by everyone, and valued as important.

2. Support: Which can include but isn’t limited to resources, time, and encouragement. An inspiring vision without support is not enough to create change. Actions do speak louder than words and showing a team support while they are implementing meaningful change is critical.

3. Collaboration: Create collaborative opportunities for people to work together on change. Not only does this show value across an organization, it creates opportunities for serendipity. Change in isolation is far less likely to spread, and far easier to be pushed back by comfortable routines and practiced habits within a system.

The key to leading change is to create an environment where the Importance of having the change happen is far greater than the Challenges that may be faced in implementing the change.

[Cross-posted on David Truss :: Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts]


  1. Kayla said:

    A great visual and description of change for administrators to use!

    September 24, 2014

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