By: Frank Magwegwe, MD & founder of Thrive Financial Education & Wellness
The keynote started with me sharing my personal story of change and resilience and ended with me helping the delegates to view change through the lens of the Gleicher-Beckhard-Harris change formula.
My journey of change started when I found myself unemployed, broke, homeless and separated from my family in the early 1990s. Through selling fruit and vegetables in downtown Joburg, I “beat the odds” and “escaped” homelessness. As South Africans prepared to vote in April 1994, I had managed, with the help of some good Samaritans, to transform myself from an unemployed, broke, and homeless young adult to a first-year student at Wits University.
This journey of change taught me that change is hard; it often comes in small, continuous adjustments to our reality; but sometimes it comes all at once, with unspeakable force like the Covid-19 pandemic; and there is no silver bullet for any of it. Most importantly, my journey of change showed me that while as human beings, we are good at many things, managing change is not always one of them because in general, humans are creatures of habit that often resist change. Yet, people and organizations, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, need to embrace change in order to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced, volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.
But personal change is extremely difficult. For example, research shows that six out seven at-risk heart patients told by their doctors that if they don’t change their habits, they will die are unable to make the necessary lifestyle changes they need in order to survive. If change is hard even when it’s a matter of life and death, what more for desired changes in our everyday lives from our work and personal finances to our health and relationships. Despite sincere, even passionate, intentions to change, people find that they are unable to do so. Why? Could the culprit be lack of willpower, resources, discipline, urgency, or motivation? Contrary to popular belief, the answer is surprisingly no.
According to the Gleicher-Beckhard-Harris change formula, the culprit is the misalignment among D, V, and F. Once D, V, and F are aligned, in that instance, people see change differently and undertake actions towards powerful and successful personal and professional change. The change formula emphasizes that for change to occur, the product of dissatisfaction with the status quo (D), compelling vision (V), and practical first steps (F) has to be greater than resistance to change (R). That is,
D x V x F > R
D = Dissatisfaction, the sense of urgency that comes from not being satisfied with the status quo.
V = Vision, a compelling, inspiring, and energizing picture of the future that draws people towards it and includes their hopes and aspirations.
F = First Steps, actions that move in the direction of the future vision. People must know where to begin and more importantly, immediate signs of progress towards the vision are required to build momentum.
R = Resistance to change that comes from culture, behaviors, structures, and more importantly from people’s underlying beliefs and attitudes regarding change. Resistance to change takes many forms and can be implicit or explicit and overt or covert.
In the change formula D, V, and F are multiplied to create a force greater than R. This implies that in all change efforts, D, V, and F must be present in some amount since if any one of the three is zero, the product of the three will equal to zero. In a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, D is often large. However, when things are going smoothly, D is usually small and so a bigger V is required for successful change.
I concluded my keynote by saying that my personal change journey shows that change can only be achieved if D, V, and F are all in place. I was deeply dissatisfied about being unemployed, broke and homeless. I had a compelling vision of life as an employed person working and supporting my parents and siblings.
Finally, selling fruit and vegetables was the necessary first step in the direction of my compelling vison. Resistance to change had no match to this powerful force for change – D x V x F!
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