One of the more fascinating aspects of human psychology is our ability to adapt to change. We experience change on a daily basis, in various forms, often multiple times a day. Some changes are small and inconsequential, while others can dramatically affect our lives. Some changes are positive. Others are negative. While many more are of little or no significance.
Our ability to adapt to change depends on a host of factors, some of which are within our control and some that are not. Depending on the type and the nature of change, we as humans seek ways to adapt to (or mitigate) the consequences of the change, especially if it is a negative one.
This discussion seeks to explore and define the elements involved in our ability to comprehend, process, and react to change. I define these as The Five Principles of Human Change Management. These principles, which in my opinion are an integral part of our evolutionary make-up, enable us to comprehend, evaluate and respond to the effects of change.
Our bodies and our physiology have been carefully tailored by nature and evolution for hundreds of thousands of years. During our evolutionary journey, we as humans have been designed (and redesigned) to withstand the physical and emotional challenges of everyday life. Our current state of evolutionary development makes us well prepared for such challenges.
The concept of change fundamentally involves the process of transforming, altering and becoming different. By itself, change is neither positive nor negative; it simply is. However, change, in its various forms, seems to be a constant staple in our lives. It occurs frequently, and as such, it affects us to various degrees.
A positive change is a welcome event and usually does not require extensive amounts of pre- and post-change processing and analysis. For the purposes of this discussion, it is more useful to look at the mechanisms we as humans employ in dealing with negative change.
Principle One — Change is a Constant
We are all aware that changes are part of the human experience and occur in our everyday lives. Many changes are outside of our control; road construction making one adapt to new traffic patterns on our way to work; mechanical problems or bad weather causing unexpected flight delays– changes abound. Understanding and acknowledging the fact that changes are a constant occurrence helps us to prepare and handle changes (and their consequences) when they take place. The magnitude, or the scope, of the actual event change, shape our reaction and response. Having previous experiences with the similar type of change makes our response process easier.
Principle Two — Anticipation of Change
The Anticipation of Change is largely complementary to the Change is Constant principle. The process of Anticipation of Change likely takes place in the background, perhaps in our subconscious, which allows us to react rationally and purposefully once an unexpected change event occurs.
Principle Three — Change Factors Analysis
This process can vary in length, and from person to person. As we are faced with a change, we analyze the factors, which have contributed or could have contributed to the change we are presented with. This activity serves several purposes. For one, we attempt to understand which internal factors are responsible for the change, such as our behavior, etc. and whether we could have (or did have) any control over those factors. In doing so we develop mental systems to avoid a similar type of change in the future. We also analyze various external factors, which were responsible for the change, in our attempt to avoid those factors in the future.
Principle Four — To Change or Not to Change
Having completed the previous three steps we make the ultimate decision of how to respond to a change, especially if it requires changing our own personal patterns of behavior. This coincides with doing our personal risk analysis as well. Adjustment of our individual patterns of behavior based on change likely plays the biggest role in how we process the consequences of such change.
Principle Five — The Post-Change Analysis
The depth and the scope of the Post-Change Analysis vary from person to person. Depending on the extent and the impact of the change itself, this process may take anywhere from a few seconds to several days or even weeks. In this phase, much like in the Change Factor Analysis phase, we look for ways and methods to mitigate the impact of the change on our daily lives, especially should such change occur again in the future.
The experience of change is in and of itself a complex process. Its complexity is made even more challenging by a host of factors, which affect the event of change. Being aware of The Five Principles of Human Change Management may potentially make our response more focused and measured, in turn preparing us to better deal with current and future changes.
About the author:
Practicing intuitive design. Seeking simplicity in everything human.
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