Change Leadership Secret – 96 – Recognize the Status Quo

Change Leadership — Secret # 96
Recognize the Status Quo

Choose always the way that seems best, however rough it may be; custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.
—Pythagoras

What I Need to Know

According to the Tannenbaum & Hanna model, the change process begins with the current state—the way things are now—the status quo. Three steps or categories of actions keep the current situation frozen.

Homeostasis and Inertia

Homeostasis is the ability and the processes that organisms use to maintain a stable condition. Inertia is the notion that people will eventually become comfortable with a situation, regardless of its desirability. Homeostatic processes and inertia not only maintain stability, they also tend to freeze the person’s life space and inhibit change.

Holding On

In the frozen state, people are still holding on to the current situation. They do not want a change—they want to keep things just the way they are. This is a natural outcome of homeostasis. If people change too often, we see them as neurotic.

Defense Mechanisms

At this stage, people reinforce their “holding on” by erecting defenses around the status quo. They appraise the current state using deny, devalue, and delay coping strategies. And they may emote with destructive and distracting emotions.

What I Need to Do

Your key task at this stage is to identify and characterize the status quo.

It is important to note that in some cases, the change process will stop right here. In other words, it will stop before it ever has a chance to get started. How many people do you know who have built castle walls around themselves as impregnable as the City of Troy? They are the Turtles who withdraw into their shells and refuse even to talk about the subject of a proposed change. Lewin notes that these people must experience a catharsis before they can unfreeze their life space.

Rather than exhaust your resources trying to convince a Turtle to change, or waiting for a cathartic event that may never come, you will be more successful if you disqualify the Turtles from your pipeline. If one of the stakeholders in an organization is a Turtle, you will need to review your power analysis and make an “over-through-around” decision regarding the Turtle.

Action Summary

  • Develop a thorough understanding of the status quo.
  • Identify what will be changing.
  • Understand the mechanisms and forces with which people are holding on and defending the status quo.
Change Leadership Secret - 96 Recognize the Status Quo

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