Rethink transformation and change

»  Misunderstandings and understandings about change

“Change has no followers. People depend on the status quo. You have to be prepared for massive resistance. “This quote is attributed to Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric for 20 years. Is this really the case? Is it really so that people hang on the “status quo”? Of course, it often happens that you can not give up an achieved condition without knowing what you get for it. But what is about personal and professional further development, what about career development, a family start, moving into another city or country, what about curiosity, creativity, innovation, inventions – obviously there are completely different mechanisms at work.

People tend to give the negative sides greater space. But what are the consequences thinking people are not open to change? What could be the effect if you prepare for massive resistance? What if Epictetus is right with his sentence: “It is not the facts which disturb us, but our opinions on the facts”?

Could it be helpful not to prepare for resistance first, but to review one’s own thinking about changes and change processes? The world of change and change is obviously so much more colorful and diverse than one-dimensional assumptions suggest. And thus our options for interaction leading change might be more colorful and diverse than just preparing for resistance.

Heraclitus: “There is nothing more consisten than change”


Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most likely to adapt to change.”



Epictetus: “It is not the things which disturb us, but our opinions of things.”


Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we want to see in the world.”


“When the wind of change blows, build one wall, and the other windmills.” Proverb  China


Martin Luther King: “In times of rapid change, experience can be your worst enemy.”


Abraham Lincoln: “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you always got!”


Stanislaw Jerzy Lec: “It is not enough that one speaks to the matter. One must speak to the people”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: “Of course I can not say whether it will be better if it is different, but so much I can say, it must be different if it is to be well.”

“The more it changes, the more it remains the same.” Proverb France



Margaret Mead: “Never believe that a handful committed people cannot change the world.Because it is that kind of people who did it up to now.”

Peter Senge: “People do not resist change, but if you try to change them.”



»    Why it is better most times to enlarge the comfort zone instead of being forced to leave it

As trainers and coaches we hear very often executives complain that their employees have arranged themselves in their work environment very comfortably and they finally should : “Get out of the comfort zone!” Let us not stress here the complicated communication, which indicates that employees have not yet been giving the expected performance. Let us simply look at the effect of such a message inside the brain, usually defined as “danger” and “stress”.

If this message arrives at the brain – regardless of whether the message sender intended that  – the immediate effect is the distribution of messengers such as adrenaline and norepinephrine, which act within seconds and lead to the release of cortisol. Adrenaline increases blood pressure and pulse rate, increases oxygen supply, reduces bowel activity, and creates the basis for providing enough energy and oxygen for an “escape or combat reaction”.

This simplified representation is much more complex than this in real life, but it may be sufficient to state: when the brain recognizes a message as a danger it initiates biological reaction patterns that are evolutionarily reduced to three behaviors: fleeing, feigning death, fighting.

These reaction patterns do not allow any creative solution, no constructive handling with the question, no room for innovative solutions.

A “classical” example from the leadership everyday work:

The executive faces the employee “Tacheles talking” with the missing target. In the brain of the employee the urgent desire comes up to either “eliminate” the manager or to escape somewhat out of the situation. Since both behaviors can not be carried out in practice, it is often the case that the employee in a mixture of feigning death and the wish to escape tries to overcome the situation with looking for excuses. Often enough the manager gives way to the desire to ask for the reasons for the lack of goal achievement, which then empowers the employee to invent so many excuses and justifications until the executive is ready to accept one or two of them.

As a side note this is just an explanation for not having reached the goal but not at all an approach to find a way how to achieve the goal. This is a good example for the attempt to solve a problem solving in the wrong place.

It can be helpful to try Albert Einstein’s idea on problem-solving which evidently is also valid in the area of ​​change and to understand that: “Problems can not be solved on the same level of thinking as we have created them.”

 »   It’s not what you say but how you say it

 Resistance to change very often is the result of how we estimate our competence to process and shape the change positively. This is precisely why way and style of corporate communications are decisive.

Communication such as:

  • “everything must be put to the test …”
  • “we will turn every stone …”
  • “Anyone who does not take part has lost nothing in the future company …”

are perceived in the brain as “danger” and “stress” and trigger the above-described reactions.

In addition long-term employees have already experienced a variety of announcements about changes (which have not all turned out to be positive in the past), and are therefore concerned to follow  the”same procedure as every year” again and again and stay reserved.

The use of terms like “change management” nowadays creates fear and uncertainty for many employees. The term is often associated with threatening developments, with danger for workplace, with loss of autonomy and respectful treatment with one another.

Openness for change processes can be significantly increased by using the “SCARF – Model” and communication possibilities based on the “ECO – Route”. Thus, the brain remains much more open in positive formulations of change processes such as: development, adaptation, growth, learning.


A threatening potential is also built up when the justifications for the upcoming change are perceived as coming from the outside with seemingly little or no possibilities to have any influence on the process. Examples:

  • “The  headquarter expects us to move to …”
  • “The speed of innovation in our industry forces us to …”
  • “In order to manage our cost structure, we must …”

Such communications over change processes also have the disadvantage that the responsibility for the process seems to be abandoned and legitimately questions will arise like why management has not initiated earlier actions.


Employees are much more open to handle change processes more constructively if the background for the change is communicated as not coming from the outside but serves the maintenance of the internal and accepted values ​​of the organization for example. When it comes to strengthening the shared vision, when it comes to positioning our values ​​and beliefs which will make us strong in the market for the next few years ... That means if the purpose of the change lies in strengthening and develop our organization a greater openness to the process of change will generally be achieved.

Nine reasons why people resist changes

  • They believe the change is unnecessary or will make things worse
  • They do not trust the people who initiate the change
  • They do not agree with the way the change is announced
  • They do not trust that the change will be successful
  • They have no information, are not involved in the planning and implementation of the change
  • They have the feeling that the change will lead to personal loss of security, money, status, or friends
  • They believe in the existing status
  • They have already experienced a lot of change processes, and can not deal with further disturbances
  • They fear not having the ability to do their work in a different way as required by the change.


Six reasons why people support change

  •  They believe that the change is meaningful and properly addressed
  • They respect the people who initiate the change
  • They assume that change brings new opportunities and challenges
  • They are involved in the planning and implementation of the change
  • They believe that the change brings personal advantage
  • They love and enjoy the speciality of change processes

Hill, L.A. (2009). Managing change: Pocket mentor. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing