I once heard a change-management consultant tell a conference room full of hospital administrators, physicians, and staff … “the only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.” (Hey, I subsequently dealt with this image, click here to see.) I was one of those administrators in that conference room in New Orleans about six months after Hurricane Katrina at a hospital whose survival depended upon a very deliberate and systematic organizational transformation; and yet the natural forces of resistance to change – among the victimized and exhausted few who were not temporarily or permanently displaced – were functional and ready for a good fight. It’s only natural. However, there was no alternative in this case. The organizational and structural changes simply had to take place and the resistance to change had to become collaboration in change; and this happened in large part due to an extraordinarily unique combination of chronic passion (joie de vivre) and acute Katrina fatigue in an extraordinarily unique context in an extraordinarily unique city.
However, when the need for change is perceived as optional and any sense of urgency is a matter of opinion, development efforts can drag on for years, resistance to change can become business as usual, and collaboration can be confined to ongoing turf battles. Even when complicated baseline findings of the communities’ perceived needs are available and displayed along side the communities’ complicated aspirations for all to compare, there can be voices crying out for simplicity and ease … but not for change.
If I ever do this again, I’ll try to remember to start off with that catchy quote about the baby, the diapers, and change, which reminds me of a drawing/post I have up my sleeve about calzones and how I suspect that this term, which means pants, really comes from little, little pants…diapers? The fullness of diapers?