This whole site is quite naturally focused on the "left brain", structured, analytical aspect of change and how we manage it.
However, there is another perspective, maybe another dimension, to how we interact with change - a more "right brain" approach - and in this small section of the site I want to take time out for reflection - and to try to experience that wider view - the Tao of change...
Being fully aware of what is going on
I sub-headed this section "Zen and the art of change management" with my tongue slightly in my cheek - and with passing reference to Robert Pirsig's 70's best seller "Zen and art of motor cycle maintenance". I am not proselytising Buddhism or indeed any particular religious perspective. In the sense that I am using the word, Zen simply means present moment awareness - to be fully present NOW.
To be fully present now, is to be fully conscious.
So the Tao of change - the way of change - is to be fully conscious of what is happening.
Do we really manage change?
We speak about "change management" as though change is something that can be managed, engineered, controlled and navigated.
Of course, at a level and to an extent all of that is true, in the world as we see it - the world of apparent reality.
But at a deeper level, maybe it is not quite so true - maybe there is rather more going on in the Tao of change...?
Could it be that we are change?
What if we are not separate from our organisations... and what if our organisations are not separate from their immediate external commercial environments... and in turn, what if all of this is connected and interacting?
Because, if so, to talk of managing change is a non-sense because we are change.
A more intuitive approach?
Of course the difficulty with all of this is that we can't see this big interconnected process, we can't intellectually grasp it and we certainly don't feel it. And for many of us even contemplating the idea of the Tao of change or any of this causes us to feel a level of resistance.
Perhaps we can open up to the idea that there is rather more going on than we initially realise and that the best way forward is to develop our ability to sense, feel or experience the wider dimensions of what is actually happening?
And perhaps we can pay more [if not equal] attention to the perspective of the Tao of change as we do to the apparent solidity and certainty of the logic of our structured management processes?
Or to put it another way, maybe we can experience the Tao of change as we develop our capacity to be in tune, to get "in the zone" or put it another way, to "go with the flow"?
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.
[Tao Te Ching]
The being is as important as the doing
Why does all this matter? Why am I devoting a section of an informational website on change management to the Tao of change?
As leaders of organisations experiencing change how we are is as important as how we do it.
People centred leadership that recognises the emotional dimension of leadership - and that addresses the emotional reality of those we are responsible for leading - demands a high level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
“Self-awareness is actually the fundamental ability of emotional intelligence, and probably the most ignored in a business setting."
A stroke of insight
Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight
Now I want to introduce you to the physiological basis of the Tao of change - the neurology of a balanced and much more holistic perception of change.
Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions - motion, speech, self-awareness all shut down one by one.
As well as gaining a first-hand insight into brain recovery for stroke victims - and for which she has become a powerful voice - her experience provides a fascintaing and direct insight into the roles and functions of the "left brain" and "right brain".
Why does this matter - how is this relevant to the Tao of change?
The relevance of this understanding of the neurology of left - right brain balance is that it is crux of the whole "balanced" or integrated approach to life.
At a reductionist level - this is the whole point of meditation and many other spiritual and personal development practises. The truly integrated perspective on the Tao of change and indeed absolutely everything is achieved by any and all means that strengthens the left brain - right brain connection.
I am including this material and giving it so much space because it is key to understanding the processes and techniques that actually bring this about. As I said above, this is not about religion or beliefs, this is about what works and what gives us access to the wider picture of the Tao of change...
Microcircuitry of the brain - the key to the Tao of change
Jill says of her work:"... we were essentially mapping the microcircuitry of the brain, which cells are communicating with which cells, with which chemicals, and then with what quantities of those chemicals.
And when you look at the brain, it's obvious that the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another.
For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor. While our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor. The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus collosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate.
Because they process information differently, each hemisphere thinks about different things, they care about different things, and dare I say, they have very different personalities."
"Our right hemisphere is all about this present moment. It's all about right here right now. Our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems. And then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like. What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like.
I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful."
"My left hemisphere is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it's all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment. And start picking details and more details and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information. Associates it with everything in the past we've ever learned and projects into the future all of our possibilities.
And our left hemisphere thinks in language. It's that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It's that little voice that says to me, "Hey, you gotta remember to pick up bananas on your way home, and eat 'em in the morning." It's that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it's that little voice that says to me, "I am. I am." And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me "I am," I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you."
Here is a film clip of Jill Bolte speaking of her experiences. [This clip is about 20 mins long.]
So where does all this leave us?
To "manage" change or - perhaps more accurately - to lead our people through change we need to be aware of the wider dimensions of the Tao of change.
The financial and process aspects of business matter - but ultimately it's not just about "pounds sterling" or change management "processes that work" - it is about people.
Understanding the Tao of change is all about understanding people.
And understanding people starts with understanding ourselves:"...knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom."
The limits of a solely rational approach to the Tao of change
All of the material we have reviewed and explored in this site about the development and evolution in the understanding of leadership, change models, theories and methodologies - all stress the importance of the human aspect and leadership and change processes that fully take that into account.
However, given the present level of the physical evolution of the human brain with the "hard wired default setting" of a left-brain orientation and understanding of life, it is fairly clear that there is a case for investigating and practising techniques, tools and processes that increase and strengthen left-right brain balance.
The case for better balanced brains
Personally, I find it interesting to see the gradual but increasing convergence of previously disparate areas of human understanding in areas such as quantum physics, neurology and the predominantly [but not exclusively] eastern disciplines of various meditation practises.
I also feel that the increasing understanding of the underlying neurological basis of human behaviour and experience moves these disciplines and practises more into the mainstream, and away from the domain of "belief systems" which has previously excluded many who have difficulty accepting their relevance in a "rational" secular society.
So we don't have to "believe" anything or subscribe to any particular religious or philosophical perspective to be able to practise and benefit from them.
All that we are doing, is re-shaping or re-programming the physical neurological connections between the left and right lobes of our brains via the corpus callosum to achieve the lived experience of a physiologically better balanced brain!
Short cut to enlightenment?
And whilst we are on the subject - the "enlightenment experience" initially introduced to the world by the Buddha, is simply the state of consciousness [or awakenedness] of a human being with a very well balanced brain.
It is hardly a coincidence that - with the exception of a very few people - this state of awareness [aka enlightenment] is the end result of many thousands of hours of meditation practice spread over many years [often decades] and the integration of this consciousness is the end result of a lengthy "rewiring" of brain circuitry accompanied by a lengthy cognitive process to integrate the experience.
It is therefore, hardly surprising that relatively so few people achieve this - or are even motivated to want to attempt it.
However, along with advances in understanding of the neurology of human development, there have been many breakthroughs in understanding other aspects of the balanced integrated approach to life - particularly in the areas of the "emotional body" and "energy body" aspects of the human experience, and also the use of binaural "brain entrainment" technologies.
This may not sound very magical, mystical or spiritual - but I trust I have at least established the basis of a case for taking a look at a number of resources that I have found helpful both in my business and personal life for developing the wider, holistic and integrated approach to the Tao of change - and in fact the "Tao of life".
The inherent (and flawed) assumption in most training and work-related attempts at encouraging personal change (in support of organisational change) is that it is skills based, in other words we can be taught to change.
Whilst it is true that we can be taught, generally we won't change.
We can't change because of our "immunity to change" or inner resistance.