If the one constant in life is change, and if NLP is all about facilitating positive change, then shouldn’t we as NLPers understand the nature of change, types of change, and when each type is effective? In this blog entry, I want to talk about several types of Change of the First Order.
By First Order Change, we understand changes to one’s self, perspectives, direction, approach, strategies, appearances, behaviors, environment, designed to deliver better performance within the same overall context, life situation, or system. First order changes can be subtle or dramatic for those making the change, but the landscape remains the same. Here are some basic types:
- Make Adjustments, Course Correct
- Shuffle the Deck, Substitute, Rotate
- New and Improved, Revised
- Hunker Down
- Stretch Up, Think Out of the Box
Let’s examine each of these in turn, with the outcome being for us to understand how to best fit each of these kinds of changes to our own needs, and the needs of those we work with.
Make Adjustments, Course Correct
Anyone who knows how to walk, drive a car or fly a plane knows how to adjust speed and direction to get where they are going. We do this intuitively and improve with practice. Business owners and managers look at their numbers in order to make buying, staffing, scheduling decisions in a regular and structured way. Investors must look at and adjust portfolio allocations in order to decide when to increase or decrease a weight in a particular segment. Husbands and wives must make adjustments to balance finance, romance, health concerns, needs of children.
Other kinds of adjustments might be making different food choices, spending more or less time at the gym or at work, with the kids, or on one’s knees.
Making Adjustments presupposes that the environment is relatively stable and changes slowly enough that course corrections will keep one in pursuit of their objectives. When someone gets temporarily stuck or lost, a course correction or adjustment may be all that’s needed to get back on track again.
Shuffle the Deck, Substitute, Rotate
Sometimes everyone seems to be operating smoothly in their capacities, and other times situations require that we change roles or positions to keep advancing the concerns of the group. We can find ourselves wearing different hats than we have been used to when a team or family member graduates, loses their job, falls ill, or dies. Some times we wear more or less hats depending on the availability of helping hands to match the demands on the group.
This kind of change is almost constant in family and work life, where things have to get done, and somebody’s got to do it. Sometimes stepping in and out of roles is voluntary, and other times compulsory.
NLP can help people step more easily and comfortably into roles, help them to focus on outcomes, and accelerate learning.
New and Improved, Revised
This kind of change simply deals with making the way things are done better, faster, more smoothly, more efficiently, more pleasantly, or more flexibly, but the overall way things are done has not changed. Eliminating non-value added process steps, round trips, rework, or errors comes with learning, and can be turned into improved processes or strategies.
This kind of change is highly valued in business, who will pay a premium for happier customers, better top and bottom lines as a result of eliminating waste. But people also pay a premium to look better, and spend a considerable amount of time and money on teeth, weight loss, hair plugs, etc.
Replacing an old computer or car with a newer one, has certain undeniable benefits both seen and felt.
In NLP, we love to help people imagine a new and improved self, life and deeper meaning, which starts on the inside and works its way out in an ecological way. We do this through well-formed outcomes.
Let’s face it. Storms happen, and there are times when we must hunker down, baton down the hatches, slow the spending, stop the bleeding and return to the basics. This can be a result of foresight of tighter times ahead, or as a result of witnessing a downward trend in fortunes or a sudden negative event. Hunkering down is necessary in organizations, families and with individuals.
Downshifting from growth strategies to survival strategies can be just the right thing, and must be timely and decisive to succeed.
NLP can help in these times to help prioritize what must be done in true first things first fashion. The alternative is hesitation, and death by a thousand cuts.
Stretch Up, Think Out of the Box
Other times, things may be going alright, and the forecast is for smooth sailing ahead, and yet things may be quite stagnant. This is a time suitable for experimenting with new ideas, studying and modeling what works elsewhere, or just tinkering with the process.
The idea of thinking out of the box is not that we work outside the box. We just go out of the box for an infusion of new ideas, energy or strength, and then bring those resources back into the box.
NLP excels in this kind of change, as it helps us and others explore our unconscious (or what we are unaware of) for resources that can be a useful part of a well-formed outcome.
All first level changes require two things to be effective: 1) A stable or slowly changing environment, and 2) a feedback loop that work within the parameters of that environment to inform us of the need for changes. Without a feedback system, it is impossible to use any of these change types in a timely manner. Feedback may come in the form of instrumentation, reports, feedback from others or from inward reflection, but it does require time and attention to look, tune in and listen and understand what the feedback is trying to say.
In NLP, we ask how will you know when you have achieved your outcome? And, how do you know whether you are on track towards your outcome? How will you know when you are off course? What are those thresholds, that tell you when a change is required?
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