October 01, 2017

Science behind Change Management

Have you wondered why some new ideas are readily accepted, while others are not? Sometimes what you think is a small change faces a lot of resistance and other times drastic changes are done easily. This is often debated in management classrooms and a lot of theories and approaches in psychology/ organization dynamics try to explain this.

Many scientists/ engineers who become managers and consultants struggle with handling/ managing change. This also stems from the fact that our education system breaks down learning and knowledge into separate compartments and do not readily allow mixing of concepts. Science is a disciplined approach to explain the workings of the universe. But we have restricted that to physical objects that we can perceive because it relies on observations and measurements. Hence, psychology or behavioral science is treated differently and people are made to believe that these are different.

All of us remember reading 'Newton's Laws of Motion' in our school days. If you read the first law carefully, it gives us a great insight: "An object will continue to remain at rest or move in a straight line unless it is acted upon by an unbalanced force". What this tells us is that there are 3 types of inertia - Inertia of rest, Inertia of motion and Inertia of direction.

This law holds good also to behaviors and organization dynamics.
  • More the mass (group size), more is the inertia
  • More the speed of movement (growth, speed of the process to be changed), more is the inertia
  • More we move in the direction of least resistance (straight line, or downhill, for example), more is the inertia
And more the inertia, more is the force required to alter course.

Now comes the interesting part - we have also studied the concept of levers where fulcrums/ pivots can magnify the force applied. So while one approach could be to keep increasing the force to alter the course, a smart way is identify the right pivot and apply the right amount of force to make the change.

The key is to identify the right pivot - what is called as leverage in management jargon. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that emotions are a thousand times more powerful than intellect. A strong intellect can keep a check on the emotions, but when a storm/ wave of emotion comes in, the intellect gets washed away. Something that you can hold on to in such situations are your values.

Do we choose an intellectual, emotional or value lever? That is what a good change management design is all about. Need help designing your change management program, you can reach out through the comments section.

True science should be able to explain physical, mental, emotional - all layers of the universe along with their interdependence. This is what we call as spiritual knowledge in this land. And it is time we encourage a holistic learning/ perspective to life around us.