Before change, letting go

We all know “people don’t like change”. Of course they don’t. I don’t like it either. Change causes stress and it feels like an extra burden, because it often is. Organisations should really stop talking about change as a starting point. Something else needs to happen first.

Change basically means adding something new to what is already there. Since both individuals and organisations live and function by using 100% or more of the resources available to them, adding something new on top of already stretched resources is bound to cause resistance and headaches. It is bound to fail even when the change is good and necessary.

I believe the first step should be to assess what is currently not working and needs to stop. Before change can happen, before new things can be added, old things must be ended. This applies to individuals and to organisations: if you want to do something new, you have to first decide what you are willing to stop doing. After the space is created and resources thus become available, only then something new can be added.

One should not underestimate the difficulty of stopping old things that aren’t working anymore. Human beings and organisations have a bad habit of confusing hope for wishful thinking, as Dr. Henry Cloud aptly points out in his fantastic book “Necessary Endings”. Ending old things can be very hard, but without this essential step, any new thing will fail.