Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Resistance to the persistence of change

The resistance to the persistence of change

Yesterday I had the great fortune to spend the day with an amazing group of staff and volunteers for the YMCAs in the region. I learned so much from them even though I was the one that was supposed to do the teaching. I was inspired by their optimism, open minded thoughts, smiles and pure enthusiasm for the work they do. It was clear to me that they treat their profession as their vocation, something I truly identified with. 
I also have a great story to share with you that I learned yesterday. It s about change, something that you know I try to embrace fully at all times. Heck right now my life is in a huge stage of flux and I'm trying to enjoy it and embrace it. But let's face it, most nonprofit organizations are highly resistant to change. We are steeped and mired in traditions, with a common phrase that we hear being "we've always done it that way". That phrase makes me a bit nauseous and I hope it does you too. 
So here's the story. Recently a professional development exercise was done where two people stand face to face. They observe each other for 30 seconds or so then turn around and change three things about their appearance. They're then challenged to notice the difference in each other. Then they turn back around and are challenged to make three other changes. Two thirds of the time the new changes are simply moving those differences back to their original positions. Sad isn't it? 
We as human beings are creatures of habit, we must force our organizations not to be. Look around your staff meetings or trainings, does everyone always sit in the same seat? Ask yourself why. What can you do to shake the snow globe of change and to ensure that change actually doesn't become complacency.  Next time you have a meeting, choose a different chair.
When you attempt to make change at an organization, have a plan in place to ensure that the changes you adopt don't become old habits. Constantly evaluate and tweak your ideas. It's ok to be different, to challenge common assumptions and to embrace change, no matter how scary. Once we overcome the fear of a shifting foundation, we learn to enjoy the ride.  So what will you do to help embrace change in your organizational culture? It's time to serve breakfast for dinner and enjoy the waffles folks. Let's vow not to settle for just good enough or the status quo. Make those three changes and vow not to let them revert over time. Be dynamic, smart and forward thinking every day. Challenge yourself and your teammates to think beyond the ordinary static ruts we tend to become comfortable with and try one new thing.  
How do you embrace change? What tools help you effect change in your organization? I look forward to hearing from you!  Don't forget o send me your creative samples and new ideas for sharing with others.

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