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Managing Change

Peter Senge, systems scientist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and author of The Fifth Discipline said that, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” We don’t want to make the mistake that Peter Senge is talking about. People who feel as if they are being changed will resist the changes around them. And let’s admit it: Change is all around us in our work lives. People, money, resources, markets, and competitors, all change. Because of that, we must adapt to those changes to help our company, our people, clients, and our projects be successful. To resist change is to forfeit a company’s future. 

A major client may be uncomfortable with a change you make in project managers. Some employees may be uncomfortable with a new corporate policy. Experienced engineers may be uncomfortable with new technologies. As leaders, you must both know when change is needed and you must help usher it in and make it work for everyone involved. 

RGI’s Change EquationTM

Taking a page from your physics notebooks, we’ve outlined three fundamental elements that leaders must understand about change. By better understanding the complex notion of change, leaders can master the skills they need to effectively manage the change and people through the change. 

When a tennis ball, under momentum from the server, hits the racket of the opponent, its IMPULSE changes. In a classic physics equation, several things are at work here: Mass, Velocity, Force, Time and Trajectory.

MassThe amount of matter in an object. 
A measure of an object's resistance to change. Its state of motion when a force is applied.(Wikipedia)

TrajectoryWhere is the Mass headed

Momentum= Mass x Velocity

Velocity”…the rate at which an object changes its position  (

We can apply these concepts to change in our environments; there are different “masses” or factors of change in our company’s environment. 

For example, it’s not as easy to slow down and change the course of a bowling ball as it is a tennis ball. The point is, you can’t make changes unless you know what you are trying to change. Too many change management programs talk about generic processes for making change. 

In this article, I’ll focus on the “mass” part of our RGI Change EquationTM.

Know the Mass

In our people equation of change, our “Mass” equals individuals and teams. People and teams of people get work done and are the true change agents of any company. Without them, no change happens. You can talk about it, plan it, and analyze it, but change simply won’t happen without people. So, you have to understand people and teams and team dynamics in relation to change to be able to enact or lead change in any endeavor. 

Change leaders know that people and teams must enact the change. They also know that these “masses” may have too much inertia to change. So often, people blame the “system” for being too big and too complex to change, or they blame the “project” for being so out of control that it cannot change. This is not so. People, not projects or systems resist change. 

To change people and teams, you must know your audience—your teams and the people who compose those teams. According to Nick Tasler in his book, Domino: The Simplest Way to Inspire Change, you need to focus on people’s tendencies, not on traditional qualities such as age, gender, or demographics. 

Pain and fear of pain influence a person’s ability to change. Some examples are: 

  • Embarrassment
  • Exclusion
  • Rejection
  • Loss

As a leader, you must recognize the pain and fear of pain in each person and help him or her adjust. Without this adjustment, someone like this on the team can create rampant fear of change that will permeate the entire team and undermine any chance of change. Here’s what you can do:

  • Talk with people
  • Be an active listener
  • Learn about people’s personalities and motivators
  • Study on how to better understand and work with different people
  • Believe in the change!

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