Human beings are innately resistant to change. Research shows that people have a very reliable and tangible preference for things that have been around longer. However — doing what we’ve always done would be an acceptable strategy if the world weren’t changing.

One of the things that makes leaders so valuable is that many of them are naturally gifted at recognizing when a change is needed. They aren’t as intimidated by change as the rest of us.

Activating Change is Hard… But Not Impossible

Unfortunately, recognizing the need to change and getting others to embrace it are two different things. Leaders cannot take people where they don’t want to go. This may seem like an annoying reality, but it can be a liberating insight if you embrace it and learn how to spark a desire in people for change.

As a leader, your job is not to change people. Rather, your job is to consider the factors that are influencing how people are perceiving change and navigate your team through them. Your job is to amplify the elements that will stimulate change and mitigate the ideas that cause resistance to change.

A Formula for Activating Change

A few years ago, a LinkedIn article by Jonathan Grigg introduced me to this formula as the best way to understand how change works.

D x V x FS > $ x Ps

D = Dissatisfaction with current reality

One thing that makes leaders valuable is that many are naturally gifted at recognizing when a change is needed.

Dissatisfaction is the primary fuel for change. Without a high enough level of dissatisfaction, pushing change in an organization is like driving a car without fuel. Eventually, you will simply run out of resolve and stop pushing.

V = Vision of preferred future

If we implement this change, how would the ideal future look? How would your organization be different? How would the lives of everyone on your team be different? Being able to paint a picture of the preferred future is an essential skill for leading through change.

FS = Immediate first steps

In addition to dissatisfaction & vision, it’s important that there is clarity around what to do first. You might not entirely know how you’re going to get from point A to point B, but everyone should have clarity and confidence in the first step to take.

Now that we’ve identified the left side of the equation, let’s jump to the other side.

$ = Cost (External)

Unusually high financial costs can inhibit change. If this is the case, it’s important to find ways to solve this issue. However, external cost almost always pales in comparison to the other driver in resistance to change.

Ps = Psychological Resistance (Internal)

Psychological resistance is the silent, deadly killer of to change. All of it is rooted in fear. The fear of change comes in two forms: professional concerns and personal concerns. As a leader, it’s important to address all five factors in the formula for change, but you should become an expert at calming people’s professional and personal fears.

Which Part of Your Formula Needs Work?

Based on this formula, the level of dissatisfaction (D) multiplied by an enticing vision of what could be (V) multiplied by clearly defined first steps (FS) must be greater than the cost ($) of the change multiplied by the psychological resistance (Ps).

The movement towards change can’t begin without all three positive drivers present. And they must be greater than negative drives in order for people to buy in.

The next time you are leading an organization through change, consider this formula.

Which area do you need to address? Are people satisfied with where your organization is headed? Does your vision inspire people? Do they know when they need to do it to start moving forward?

On the other side… What concerns do people have for the organization if the change is implemented? Are people personally concerned with how the change will impact their role or job security?

This all may sound overwhelming. Managing change is not a simple enterprise. However, leveraging this formula the next time you recognize the need to change will hopefully make the process a lot more effective in the long run.

Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash
Humans are innately resistant to change, which can be a challenge for leaders. When you face that challenge, consider this formula for Activating Change.