The ancient Chinese seem to have possessed a certain wisdom about life which still resonates with us today. On the subject of change for instance they had a clever saying intended to provoke their response when encountered by the inevitable phenomenon and I quote: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills” – Ancient Chinese saying
For some people change is a nuisance factor which they try to shield against, while for others it presents an opportunity to harness. It can be argued that both responses carry merit. Protagonists for shielding against the inconvenience of change argue that doing so has the effect of making one more resilient, while those who debate on the side for accepting it and using it to propel progress present a more historical argument; Response to evolution when considered as a process of change they say, is the reason we are where we are as a human race today. They argue that had the human race not embraced the changes brought about by evolution it is unlikely that we would be here today.
The fact is though, change happens! Because it cannot be avoided, I would argue against the wall building protagonists and advise that they consider adjusting their approach to it lest its winds bring down their walls. I would recommend a three-step approach to doing so:
Firstly, they need to envision the change. Its coming anyway, so you best anticipate and prepare for it. Use your past experience of it to educate you on what form it will take. In the case of organisational change for example, will it be developmental change, that which involves improving and optimising the organization’s processes? Or will it be transitional change, that which basically moves an organization from its current state to a new state? Envisioning the change puts you in pole position to take steps that will see you make the best of it. Scenario planning is the best way to do this. Draw up a list of future changes likely to affect you and spell out response plans for each of them.
Next, because you have envisioned and prepared for it, take the battle to its doorstep like a confident military general would do to his enemy. Now that may sound a bit cheesy but hey, is it not coming anyway? Have you not prepared adequately for it through the envisioning process? So why wait? Its best that you get it over with as fast and as efficiently as you can. You stand the risk of losing the edge of preparedness if you choose to wait for it to take its natural process. So, Initiate it!
Guess who’s the boss now! By initiating the change, you have taken charge of the management process that will see you get the best out of it. This is the third step in the process. You control it! You choose how it will affect you and what you will do to make the best out of it. It is at this stage that you execute your actions from the scenario planning. It is at this stage that the proponents for building windmills advance in technology. It is thanks to this stage that humanity in the early days shifted to live in caves and used fire to keep them warm and process their food.
This simple three step approach to change is the best way to ensure you don’t get left behind. Those that choose to build walls in response to the winds of change stand the risk of losing out on the several opportunities and possibilities that change will have brought with it. Greatness only comes with accepting change. Not many people today remember the Sony Walkman. In its day the Walkman was the greatest response to the change in music listening habits. For the first time ever, music lovers were able to move around with their music conveniently playing away through their headphones powered by the portable music device. It was simply put, the greatest technological invention of its time. Had Sony chosen to envision, anticipate and control the changing needs of the music lover maybe today we would have the ‘Sonypod’ instead of the ‘iPod’! History is certainly disproportionately harsh to those that refuse to embrace change is it not?
As such, the question on whether change is a menace or a necessary evil is not a matter of conjecture, but rather one of fact: wade into it, confront it, make it happen - for when the ripples of change start, they are unstoppable!