Leading Change Series: Change is a Learning Process

Change is a Learning Process.

“That man is a creature that needs order yet yearns for change is the creative contradiction at the heart of the laws which structure his conformity and define his deviancy.”

Freda Adler, American educator and criminal justice specialist (b. 1934)
Change is a learning process. It’s a bit like learning to drive on the other side of the road and realising just how difficult a seemingly simple task can be. Designed change does not happen by osmosis. A conversation or a training program is not equal to change. These are events and they may contribute to the change process but are not the same as change. Too often, leaders expect that because an employee has attended a training program or agreed to do something differently, that behavioural change will be immediate and perfect. Change is not about a pass or a fail. If the thing you’re working on is a 1/10 and then it hovers at a 2 then edges towards the 5, 6 or 7 mark (depending on the day), you’ve still made effective change, despite not being at a 10. Change does not happen overnight. It is a process requiring practice, reinforcement and reassessment and patience. Slower changes are more likely to become hard-wired, allowing you to adjust psychologically to new behaviours. Change is a learning process. Relapses are not signs of failure, rather they help you to recover quickly and rather than being disappointed, it is important to see them for what they are – opportunities for both learning and embedding the new behaviour. It is worth thinking of a successful change that you have made in your life – what was that change, was this change a learning process for you? What did you do to embed the change and what benefits did you reap from successfully making that change in your life?