• richardhcarson

The Nature of Change

When I decided to title my book as the Book of Change®, the first thing I found out was that someone had picked a similar title. Further, it was done over 3,000 years ago in ancient China. The I Ching or the Book of Changes, is an ancient Chinese divination text and among the oldest of the Chinese classics. It embodies one of the traditional names for the processes of change such as the Yin and Yang. The I Ching uses the production of random numbers to determine divine intent. It has been deemed an exercise in metaphysics. The resulting hexagrams were used to answer questions such as business, health, children, and determining lucky days [Wikipedia]. It is the Chinese version of what is astrology in Europe.

The western mindset of change is based on “Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman, and European Enlightenment (e.g., Descartes and Newton) beliefs, assumptions, and concepts.” This western view of change is linear and destination oriented. On the other hand, the eastern view of change is cyclical and journey oriented (Van Enyde, 1997).

My take on model and outcomes is based on the former. I subscribe to Albert Einstein’s view that “God does not play dice with the universe.” This clarified his argument that quantum particles must adhere to certain rules that don't change randomly, and that the quantum world required better explanations for particle behavior. I agree with Einstein, in that change is predicable. This is the most important premise of my book.

I categorize the realm of predictable changes to be internal (e.g., physical layout/assets, organizational culture, rules/procedures/processes, technology and tools, employee resources, financial resources) and external (e.g., socio-cultural, technology, economic, political, pandemic, and environment).

I describe the nature of change in terms of quantitative impacts and qualitative events. The change impacts allow us to categorize and then measure the quantitative impact of change. In doing so we can then understand the cost-benefit of doing various alternatives versus doing nothing. We can also start to evaluate the performance efficiency of taking action to manage change. The change events allow us to categorize and evaluate the qualitative nature of the event of change.

There are two general types of change impacts on the individual, the organization and on the socio-cultural. The Internal Change Impacts affect the individual and the organization. The External Change Impacts affect the individual, the organization and all of the socio-cultural. These are distinct from what I call change events.

Internal Change Impacts. There are six types of internal change impacts on the individual and the organization. They are the physical layout/assets, organizational culture, rules/procedures/processes, technology and tools, employee impacts, and financial impacts. I have created the acronym PORTEF for them.

· Physical layout/assets (buildings, offices spaces, parking, satellite offices)

· Organizational Culture

· Rules/Procedures/Processes

· Technologies and tools

· Employee impact

· Financial impacts

External Change Impacts. There are six types of external change impacts on the individual, the organization, and on humanity. They are socio-cultural, technology, economic, political, pandemic, and environment. I have created the acronym STEPPE for them.

· Socio-cultural (gender, race, nationality)

· Technological (artificial intelligence, technological advances, pharmaceutical, medical)

· Economic (recession, depression, trade wars, monetary devaluations, economic systems)

· Political (elections, coup d'état, regulatory/legislative)

· Pandemic (global diseases such as COVID-19, AIDS, Ebola, Zika, H1N1, SARS)

· Environmental (volcanic, tsunami, weather, flooding, earthquakes, climate change)

Change events. There are three kinds of change events for you to manage. I like to call them The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. These names are taken from the 1966 cult favorite spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood. These rather colorful euphemisms stand for what I more mundanely call the Predicted, the Predictable and the Unpredictable. I came across these three concepts after reading two very different authors, as part of my doctorate research, who independently came to the same conclusion. One is Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of The Black Swan, who gained fame by prophesizing and capitalizing from the financial Crisis of 2007. The other was Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was the Secretary of State to both President Ford and President Bush. With the latter he played a central role in the invasion of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

What fascinated me was that two men, from such different backgrounds, came to the similar conclusions about the nature of change. Taleb would call them The White Swan, The Grey Swan and The Black Swan. Rumsfeld would call them the Known-Known, the Known-Unknown, and the Unknown-Unknown. I hasten to add that while Taleb was lauded as a financial genius for uttering such phrases, Rumsfeld was derided as a political eccentric for saying the same thing. The difference being that one man made a lot of money in the process and the other lost public confidence in the process. As a doctorate researcher searching for some answers, I was amazed that they both agreed on the nature of change. What was even more amazing was they had similar ideas on how to manage it.

Causality. In physics and philosophy, there is the almost metaphysical concept of “causality” or what is known as “cause-effect.” So, one important aspect to keep in mind is that the type of change requires a specific organizational change management process. It is not only the outcome that matters. By this I mean that the order is: change process outcome. It is a little like product development. The analogy is you have an idea for a product at the same time as a competitor. You develop a manufacturing process to deliver the product

So, it’s: idea manufacturing process product. You both get to market at the same time with a similar product. The difference is cost which was determined by the process. You win or lose in the marketplace based on process cost.

It is the same with change management. How you manage change will determine how successful you are in the final outcome. The recent COVID-19 is a good example. The disease occurred in several American cities at the same time. However, the outcome or death rate varied greatly depending on the type of containment/testing/mask process put in place by each municipality (i.e., city, county, state).

As you will see in the following chapters, there are numerous change management processes that have been developed in the post-World War II years. Many have been modeled after the basic Lewin process of 1951. Others have taken different paths. So, there is a lot of competition out there in the marketplace of ideas on how to handle your specific change problem.

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