Make Change a Dance Instead of a Struggle

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Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Anonymous November 28, 2015

Too many people use a methodology for organizational change & conflict resolution that can be compared to undergoing a root canal. This approach to change & conflict ensures it will be painful before the activity even begins. Learning the methodology to engage in change & conflict as a dance rather than as a struggle can transform the undertaking, allowing the possibility for change & conflict to include positive elements and even a little fun. Research shows leadership makes all the difference in level of engagement. See Psychol Today response to Gallop Report

Those engaged in change initiatives have much to learn from dancers. Dancing is not nearly as easy as it looks when the learning is taking place. Most dancers make allowances for and understand that learning new steps, let alone new dances, involves much awkwardness and that this phase can last a while. Partner dancing is not a solo sport and the moves must be fine tuned and coordinated, knowing one’s own part as well as how to integrate with one’s partner, and eventually how to adjust to one another spontaneously, is essential. Rushing this stage builds the dance on a shaky foundation that compounds mistakes in the future and leads to poor execution in the final dance. Repetition and relentless practice is vital. At some point, the awkward stage becomes conscious movement that still involves ‘constantly thinking about’ each step in order to perform well, but the awkwardness has disappeared.  At a still further point the moves become automatic. Most dancers find a way to have fun during the process and they always keep the goal in mind as a source of motivation through easy and tough times. They never forget where they are headed.

The link between dancing and change was not lost on an important change master; Rosabeth Moss Kanter, key originator of what is today called agile, entitled her book WHEN GIANTS LEARN TO DANCE.

The following ballroom dance video performed by yours truly ushers in the spirit of approaching change as an adventure. In this dance, performing before a large crowd, my partner, not realizing he had done so, changed some steps. Because we had gone through all the stages described above it did not derail us but rather allowed for some spontaneous moves on my part. The dance process is akin to the metaphor of a jazz band that my mentors used to describe a well orchestrated change.

Make Change a Dance Instead of a Struggle from Christine Johnson, PhD on Vimeo.

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