In a previous post I described Efrat’s Cloud, a very effective way to explain why we resist change.
Human thinking and behaviour is very complex. In order to make something complex easier to understand a picture can paint a thousand words. While Efrat’s cloud is a picture that describes the dynamics of our thinking and behaviour Dr. Robert A. Cooke and Dr. J. Clayton Laferty of Human Synergistics International provide a model that effectively describes our thinking and behaviour styles. They call it a circumplex.
Bringing these two models together we can see clearly the styles we use to derive Satisfaction and Security. Usefully, the model also helps us to clearly see the styles we use when we are task focused or people focused – a conflct that requires constant balance in an organisational context. The circumplex can be used as a measure in relation to the balance across these two dimensions.
Four of the styles in the circumplex are related to deriving Satisfaction. These four styles, when used, are unlikely to produce UnDesitable Effects. As a result they are highly effective and are called constructive styles. Human Synergistics has considerable data that supports the proposition that people perceived as highly effective leaders use high levels of these constructive behaviours. Groups of people and organisations are the same.
Four of the styles in the circumplex relate to deriving Security with a focus on people. When we are highly security focused and we are people oriented we develop strategies that relate to these four styles: Approval, Conventional, Dependent and Avoidance. The problem is that when used at high levels these strategies cause UnDesirable Effects for us. These styles are how we resist change when we are more people oriented.
The remaining four of the styles in the circumplex relate to deriving Security with a focus on tasks. When we are highly security oriented and we are task focused we develop strategies that relate to these four styles: Perfectionistic, Competitive, Power and Oppositional. The problem is that when used at high levels thes strategies cause UnDesirable Effects. These styles are how we resist change when we are more task oriented.
Through out our lifetimes we have each created a unique set of strategies for Satisfaction and Security. Those strategies will vary depending on our cultural background, age, gender, town, school, personality and a raft of other factors.
Our drivers and strategies are as diverse as we are. It is this diversity that makes the human part of a business system incredibly complex (which is probably why most improvement strategies have focussed on anything but the people). Fortunately, for those who practice systemic thinking, there is inherent simplicity in any complex system.
What is evident to me is that no matter what our background when we use Security based styles of thinking and behaviour we are trying not to change and when we use Satisfaction based styles of thinking and behaviour we are trying to change.
When we try to do both we get stuck.
The good news is that we can change the styles we use. What is more is that we can change them as individuals, we can change them as a group and we can change them as an organisation.
Eli Goldratt once said “the magnitude of resistance to change is not dependent at all on the magnitude of benefits expected from the change. It is in direct proportion to the magnitude of the change itself. The bigger the required change, the fiercer the resistance seems to be”. I think he was only part way there at the time. The magnitude of resistance is directly proportional to the security we seek. The bigger the change, the bigger the perceived threat. The bigger the perceived threat, the more security we seek. The more security we seek the bigger the resistance.
Unless, of course, we can think clearly. And that is the choice.
The following video contains the content from my first post on “Why we resist change” and expands on it.
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