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"Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time."
Alvin Toffler

In his classic Future Shock, Toffler discusses how unrelenting advances in technology was sending society into a state of "shattering stress and disorientation." It isn't change that does it necessarily: it's a constant barrage of rapid change. The same applies on a microcosmic level. Leaders have little chance of implementing change successfully if they try to do too much, too fast. So the question is how can you keep up with the rapid pace of change - and bring your people onboard with you?

Why Change Fails

In a Springboard, Inc. whitepaper, change management expert Janice Darling writes, "The economy is driving the need for immediate changes to reduce cost, improve operations, and stay competitive. Results need to be seen fast and be sustainable." But 70% of change initiatives fail. It's not that people can't change. It's not even that they don't want to change. As Peter Senge, organizational scientist and lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Business, said, "People don't resist change. They resist being changed."

In our frenetic world, leaders often try to move too fast. They try to force change onto their employees; that's where resistance and pushback comes from. In order to bring people on board with you, to get them to follow you, you need to slow down and educate. Darling recommends first confirming that the change is "absolutely required."

If it is, "you need a rigorous program to make it work. You need to lead the organization in implementing the change - being clear about expectations and consequences. People won't find out how good the future can be without your help in getting through their resistance." To get through resistance, to effect change, you have to show that you're not changing them. Rather, they're taking part in making the change happen. It's a difference that makes all the difference.

Slow is Fast; Fast is Slow

Steven Covey said, "With people, if you want to save time, don't be efficient. Slow is fast and fast is slow." If you rush change, you have a much greater risk of failure. Take the time to explain the change and its rationale. Talk about the benefits - and the challenges. Listen to their concerns and questions.

The reality is that if people don't understand the change, they won't buy in. If they don't know how it'll benefit them, they won't engage in it. At best, they'll ignore you. At worst, they'll actively resist.

You have to give people the information they need - and go at their pace. With me, the challenge is that I process information very quickly. I assume everyone else does as well. So, when I was learning a skill or competency and there were 10 steps, I'd go 1, 2, 3, 9, 10 - because I could see the endgame.

When I started to train others, I realized that I had to let them to go through the steps at their pace. If I tried to force it too quickly, they resisted. It's the same when trying to implement change in your organization. You can't afford to skip steps 4-8.

The bottom line is that trying to change too much, too quickly will doom your initiative to failure. You have to back up and take the time to treat "future shock" with information, guidance, support, and reassurance. When change is "implemented flawlessly," Darling says "benefits are achieved faster" and "things happen quickly." Slow is fast.


Larry Hart

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