Now, What is Change?

Re-reading my blog titles occasionally leads to interesting thoughts. Many titles mention change, and most entries have something to do with change. But after all these entries no one has asked me, “Don, what do you mean ‘change’?”. Until recently, I haven’t asked me either.

It’s understandable. We all know what change is. We’ve been involved with change all our lives. Thus we each have an idea what change means. However, as I mentioned earlier (Different But Useful), the map is not the territory. It’s quite likely that your definition varies from mine. Like the air we breath, we don’t notice it until something goes wrong.

So, what is change? Change is the transition in a system between two steady states.

Transitions requires time. Smaller less complex systems generally require less time to make transitions. As an independent consultant, I can implement changes much faster that Microsoft can. I don’t have empirical data but I’d guess by the time I’m finished with a change, they’d still be discussing it.

Transitions also require energy. Some energy is required to move the system from its stable state. If an external event creates a life and death response in the system, this energy probably isn’t hard to find. If the change “comes down from on high” and involves doing something differently (such as process improvement), the energy may not exist to get the transition started. Once the transition gets underway, more energy than normal gets expended as the system attempts to re-organize and find its new stable state.

Seem reasonable? Got a question or something to say? Let me know.

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