How did I get here? Reflections on change

It seems we are always so occupied and immersed in the immediate that we rarely reflect on just how we got here. The pivotal moments – the chance encounter, the advert in the newspaper you rarely look in, the call you answered on someone else’s phone, the magical utterance in an interview that was going nowhere until it arrived – any or many of which changed our lives irreversibly.

I finished my MSc in IT in 1991 in the middle of an economic downturn, and having spent the summer in Athens on a student exchange, didn’t have a job to return to. I had gone back to study with the intention of being a new “hybrid manager” who understood IT and business, but with the jobs pages bare I soon secured myself a teacher training place at Keele. My plan was to return to Greece for the following summer before the course began, and see where it took me. Then I received a letter – yes, one of those – asking if I would return to the company I left to go back to University, as a systems analyst to finish some of the work I had started. Three months later a vacancy arose and I was a Facilities Manager. That was twenty years ago.

If only we could map those interactions and life-changing moments between us. Then consider how your own actions have created transformational moments for others, possibly many times over. If ever we doubt that our environment is a complex adaptive system, a simple consideration of the web of meaningful flashes of light should be enough to convince.

Finally consider how complex a single day might be. The interactions and their implications may not be quite so life-changing, but are meaningful in their own relative space. As I sit here now, I know that by the end of the day I will b a different person, that my interactions with others will have changed me – and them.

So consider, in such inherently chaotic human environments how we might manage a change process involving large numbers of people. Yet still we attempt to apply scientific and rigorous structured change plans, and to “manage” the process. To successfully guide change we need to first acknowledge the inherent complexity of the environment, and from there to weave narrative and story we can relate to. We are all about to go on multiple journeys.

If we start by consider our own path to the present, we might stand a chance of understanding how to take others to a new place with us.

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