Unleash the Motivation for Change

I’ve long been a subscriber to Russell Ackoff’s principles, renowned for his pioneering work in Systems Thinking and Management f-Laws (yes, Ackoff spelt the last word that way intentionally).

As a famed professor at the Wharton School, he remains a timeless figure whose insights continue to resonate profoundly with my work in change management and risk.

One of the most memorable statements that sticks with me is . . .

“The only thing harder than starting something new is stopping something old.” 

This statement encapsulates the inherent challenges of change management, particularly the reluctance and resistance often encountered when dismantling established practices and processes. It underscores the difficulty of navigating the inertia and status quo that can impede progress.

Indeed, the struggle to initiate change and break free from entrenched behaviour patterns is a universal predicament for individuals and organizations alike.

The observation is a touching reminder of the formidable hurdles and risks that must be overcome in pursuing innovation, creativity, and transformation. It emphasizes the necessity for courage, determination, and foresight in steering organizations towards a future that embraces change and adaptation.

In my work with clients, I have encountered numerous instances where Ackoff’s wisdom has rung true. Whether within the context of strategic shifts, organizational restructuring, technological advancements, or cultural transformations, the challenge of letting go of the past and embracing the new is a recurring theme.

The essence of successful change lies in one’s ability to perceive organizations as holistic systems rather than each business unit being an isolated component. Emphasizing the interconnectedness within an organization highlights the importance of taking a strategic view of management practices when dealing with change and associated risks.

What I have found is that it is actually about motivation and momentum.  If something must be done, it can be done – it’s as simple as that. With the right people and the right reasoning, approach and tools, momentum can be gained to create change and advantage. Finding that advantage starts the motivation and the momentum. 

When change is viewed through the lens of systems thinking it urges us to consider the interdependencies and relationships between different parts of an organization.

The learning that can be taken from successfully blending strategy, change and risk serves as a beacon, urging us to confront the discomfort of unfamiliarity and embrace the opportunities that change can bring.

Consider this simple example:

In a multi-generational work environment, some older employees like to write memos to colleagues.  Their colleagues are now on the Internet; they have email and cell phones with texting capabilities. Shifting to email and texting, they suddenly find they get responses back the same day. The old practice of writing memos stops very quickly.

Not every change, of course, will be that simple, but many with the right motivation will generate positive results.

In conclusion, remembering that “The only thing harder than starting something new is stopping something old” reminds us of the risks, complexities and paradoxes that characterize the change management process.

As organizations must navigate the evolving landscape of organizational dynamics, Ackoff’s wisdom remains a compelling guidepost and guides us towards sustainable growth and innovation.

The learn more about our work – click the link. 

Look for my upcoming book that speaks to the intersections of Strategy, Change and Risk: From Zoo to Zen: Taming the Chaos of Business.
Until next time

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