Human beings resist change in most aspects of life. They are comfortable with the familiar, the tried-and-true. Most are driven more strongly by the fear of negative consequences than by the desire for more positive outcomes. This is known as status quo bias, a thought pattern that results in professionals at all organizational levels favoring the current state of affairs, regardless of the reasons for change.
It takes a critical mass of dissatisfaction with the status quo to budge individuals and organizations from this tendency, which is why leaders in change management must be attuned to human and organizational behavior in order to be effective.
In Avila University’s online Master of Arts in Management with a concentration in Change Management program, students learn in-demand, effective approaches to identifying an organization’s change dynamics, determining the prominent challenges, overcoming status quo bias and producing data-driven solutions.
What Makes Change Problematic for Some Leaders and Organizations?
Public understanding of what makes organizational change difficult has been heavily developed over recent years, beginning with the work of researchers William Samuelson and Richard Zeckhauser in 1988. The pair questioned people’s choices in a decision-making role when presented with scenarios faced by workers, managers and government officials. They found that people have a strong tendency to choose to maintain processes as they are, and hence the term “status quo bias.”
There are several reasons people and organizations are resistant to change:
- There is loss aversion bias. People have two main motivations: the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Research in “status quo bias” (in psychology and economics) has consistently shown that fear of losses looms larger than the desire for gains.
- Inertia is hard to break. It takes a lot of energy to overcome the natural desire to keep repeating old habits, whether effective or not.
- People assume current trends will continue, often until it is too late to change.
- Complacency sets in when things are going well, and people want to “leave well enough alone.” Familiarity breeds comfort. After all, it took so much work to get to this point, why risk losing the gains that have been achieved?
We see evidence of these reasons in all areas of life. In politics, people tend to continue voting along party lines. In investing, many people leave their money in low-yield savings accounts rather than taking age-appropriate retirement risks. In health, people tend to prefer their old medications to newer, more promising solutions. Change management leaders in any area of life, from politics to business, must be trained in overcoming status quo bias and change resistance.
Today’s Work Environment Demands a Specific Trained Approach
The cross-disciplinary study of change management in organizations has resulted in steps that can be applied with reliably positive outcomes. Here are some of the tenets that a trained approach must include:
- Define the positive outcomes that can be achieved and promote them to a critical mass of stakeholders.
- Define the adverse outcomes that can be averted by directing strategic change.
- Imagine what your company can do in the world if you reimagine it.
- Make ecosystems valuable by embracing them and creating value out of them.
- Develop a system that gives your customers privileged insights that deepens the relationships.
- Emphasize outcomes in your organization.
- Reorient your leadership team’s focus to the reasons for and benefits of change.
- Invent a new social contract for your people that rewards complying with change initiatives.
- Make your leadership approach disruptive so that change becomes too hard to resist and inevitable.
How an Advanced Degree Is Beneficial
The Avila University Master of Arts in Management with a Concentration in Change Management online prepares change management leaders to navigate the evolving business landscape with confidence and competence, from planned change management initiatives to dealing with unexpected market fluctuations as they arise.
In the Organizational Development and Planned Change course, students learn an experiential approach to the study of change for the internal or external OD professional or organizational manager. Topics regarding consulting and motivating for high-performing systems include interpersonal interventions, team development and continuous improvement processes.
The Change Dynamics course develops ideas and models to help leaders see change management from different perspectives and understand why it can be difficult. It begins with an overview of the complexity found in organizations and why quality remains elusive. Next, the course develops strategic models for aligning internal capacities with external factors in an organization. It also addresses organizational readiness for change, change processes, inclusion and how to participate.
The Change Leader course builds on the strategic organizational aspects of change around completing a project template based on Lean Six Sigma. This performance improvement program is focused on discovering process variation and improving processes to continually provide quality outputs. This focus on processes finds ways of acting, thinking and learning about continuous improvement through five interrelated dynamic stages.
In the Evidence Based Decisions course, students look deeper at data and statistically based decision-making. Students layer this data-based view over the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC) framework. They also examine other change methodologies and team development approaches.
If you are fascinated with human psychology, organizational behavior and becoming an influential, transformative leader, a future in change management leadership may be for you — and Avila University’s advanced Master of Arts program may be the gateway to your future of success.