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Ego vs change: ask the right questions and you'll get the right answers

Organisational change is a journey not a destination. To survive, every organisation must be prepared to change all the time. The bad news is that the speed of change is increasing. More bad news: the majority of people are not willing to change. Why?

Our ego. Our ego wants us to stay in the comfort zone, the known territory and the status quo. Our ego fools us by asking these questions when we encounter change:

1. Why do I need to change?
2. What's in it for me?
3. Why do we have to go through the trouble?
4. Will this work?
5. How difficult will it be?

Each of these questions is rooted in a belief or assumption that can be difficult to shake:

1. Everything is seems to be okay now.
2. I am happy now.
3. I am quite certain about what to do now.
4. I don't want to lose face.
5. I'm afraid I won't be able to do it.

These are fair questions if the environment is static, certain, simple and predictable. But today we are living in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. So what do we do? We need to start asking these right questions to replace our ego questions:

1. When will this new initiative start?
2. How can I get involved in the change process?
3. How can I be an example of a change agent?
4. How can we make the change work?
5. How can we minimise disruption from the change?

These are positive, forward-looking questions based on the following rationales:

1. I am embracing change.
2. I want to be part of the future.
3. I want to make change contagious.
4. I want to make change happen.
5. I want to make the transition to change go smoothly.

What are the implications from each of these right questions?

1. I am embracing change. People who adopt this mindset are mature and aware that change is inevitable. They know that change is about attitude. Attitude is about the wisdom to make the right choice. You have two choices, each with a different outcome: a) resist now, get comfortable now and suffer in the future, or b) embrace change now with some discomfort, and things will get better in the future.

How do you demonstrate the right mindset? Be curious. What is happening in the world? Learn more about your customers, your competitors and other stakeholders. You will be surprised how little you know about the world. Seek feedback about yourself by asking your stakeholders these questions: What do you expect from me? How well am I doing? How can I serve you better?

Volunteer for a change initiative. Volunteer any strengths you have that can make a contribution, such as writing, presentation or IT skills.

2. I want to be part of the future. We all know that change will make some jobs disappear. Those people whose capabilities are deemed obsolete will be unemployed. The great management theorist Peter Drucker once said: "The most effective way to manage change successfully is to create it." With that in mind, ask yourself:

- What will this organisation look like in the future?
- What will be the core capabilities of the future organisation?
- What strengths do I possess that can be useful in the future?
- How can I make other people aware of these strengths?
- What do I need to learn or develop further?
- How can I contribute now in order to help create a foundation for the future of the organisation?

3. I want to make change contagious. Organisational change requires momentum. If you have a mindset that embraces change, how can you make it contagious?

- Share your viewpoint with your peers and allies.
- Influence those who are unaware of the need for change.
- Take action and keep others informed of progress.

Being a role model for change requires courage. You will fail occasionally during the pilot phase. Be positive. Don't feel bad about failure -- fail forward.

Most people don't want to change because they are afraid of failure and the unknown, or afraid to be seen as losing face. A great change agent knows that being vulnerable is part of the process. We change, fail, grow and learn from it.

4. I want to make change happen. In most organisations, only 10% are leaders and the rest are followers. Those leaders know that in order to lead you need to have the courage to go into unknown territory and make things happen. They know that there is no ready-made manual for the unknown but they decide to lead anyway. Are you in the 10% or the 90%?

5. I want to make the transition go smoothly. People who are great change agents are aware of risk vs reward. Hence, they prepare for it by asking questions such as these:

- What could go wrong?
- How can I prevent it?
- Who should I ask about the potential risks? Who is great at anticipating risks?
- How can I maximise communication: before, during and after change?

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at