From my perspective, human energy is the currency of organizational change. People apply their energy to do the work of change, including adapting to the disruptions of expectations that major change introduces. Because human energy is finite, it is possible for people to become overloaded by change demand. Organizations contribute to change demand in several ways, including:
- Taking on too much change–either overall, or in a particular part of the organization
- Implementing change ineffectively, so that changes consume more energy than they should
While working to address these issues, organizations can also increase change capacity in several ways, including:
- Increasing knowledge and skill among leaders, change agents, and participants in change
- Building cultural readiness for change
- Helping individuals build their resilience
How does resilience help address the issue of change overload?
People learn about their own responses to change Developing resilience increases self-awareness and enables people to take a more objective perspective to their own responses to change. If I can increase awareness of the emotions that are surfacing when I am disrupted by change, I can begin to make choices about how to deal with them.
People gain skills in managing their energy during change Once individuals begin to notice patterns in their responses to change, they can recognize where additional skills such as emotion management, risk-taking, seeking social support, etc. can be helpful in creating more effective responses. Each of these skills enables them to draw on a greater supply of physical, mental, and emotional energy, and/or use existing energy more effectively.
People raise their threshold for disruption One of the big consumers of human energy during change is the disruption of expectations. As individuals increase their awareness of how they respond to change and their skills in dealing with it, they become more confident in their ability to deal with surprises which, somewhat paradoxically, makes the surprises less disruptive and less energy-draining.
People prepare for disruptive change before it happens Many of the skills that are useful when dealing with change-related disruption are habits of mind that can be cultivated. As people begin to use smaller challenges as catalysts for sharpening skills such as prioritization, planning, positivity, and improvisation, they begin to build new habits that are very helpful in facing larger challenges.
There are many ways to approach the issue of change-related overload. I would love to hear about your own thoughts and experiences in this area. And I hope these thoughts on the benefits of building resilience will give you some ideas on how to build personal and organizational capacity for change.