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Has the Nature of Change Somehow Changed?

How often have we heard the phrase, attributed to Isaac Asimov, “The only constant is change?” Has the phrase “change” itself become another management cliché—and thus something to be “managed?” Has change really become somehow less difficult, unsettling, and disruptive? Or has it become more complex, less predictable, and more ambiguous in nature?

A very real question is: Has the nature of change somehow…..changed? Over the next three blogs we’ll examine some fundamental questions about change and the ways in which Top Teams approach this very tricky and always disruptive arena.

Most models of change are predicated on the belief that change is a disruption to an established pattern or way of doing things. Managing change then, means weathering the storm and managing the process until some degree of normalcy returns. But the return to normalcy hasn’t been our experience in some time.

Intense global political, technologic, and economic shifts continue to impact virtually every individual and business across the world. Speed of change, global inter‐connectedness and interdependence continues to accelerate. We’ve seen leaders forced to imagine change what would have never been possible or imaginable in their reign; leaders who are often challenged to fundamentally rethink the very nature of companies they have created, worked at, or led for years.

Leadership and military teams often talk about VUCA—volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—as something they face almost daily. The current Wikipedia definition, which has great face validity, defines the elements of VUCA as:

V = Volatility: The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
U = Uncertainty: The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the [difficulty in] awareness and understanding of issues and events.
C = Complexity: The multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues and the chaos and confusion that surround an organization.
A = Ambiguity: The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause‐and‐effect confusion.

Change consultants talk about “waves of change” during which companies and employees experience one disruption after another without returning to solid ground for long periods of time. Neuropsychologists tell us that the human brain is not evolutionally developed to deal with constant change. We are not wired for constant disruption or “flooding.” In today’s world, the frequent waves of change, high volatility and complexity, significant paradox and ambiguity, create a whitewater experience. And this experience creates huge paradigm shifts for executives and employees alike as the very ground underneath them feels shaky.

This brings to mind questions, such as: How do we deal with the Now and the New? What is the “New Normal?” Does the New Normal somehow represent continuous, complex, ambiguous and uncertain change, like a river that is truly never the same? Our thinking is that the very nature of change has changed both on a personal and on a business level.

Change has changed. And Top Teams do a far better job in wrapping their heads around change than do just good teams. What makes the difference? I invite you to weigh in over the next three blogs.

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