Mike Rutherford’s Equation for Change

Improving the human condition requires people change.

Someone once said that we break New Year’s resolutions because we have an even deeper unconscious resolution not to let anyone tell us what to do, not even ourselves.

Mike Rutherford has discussed how to overcome a group’s resistance to change, even if that change represents an improvement. ( Rutherford Learning Group http://www.rutherfordlg.com).

I was lucky enough to hear Mike talk to a group of educational leaders several years ago about his equation for change.   As I remember it, his equation is D+ CV+SFS>R= C.  D = Dissatisfaction, CV=Compelling Vision, SFS= Successful First Steps, greater than R=Resistance, equals C=Change.

He tells educators that they first need to help their group become aware of the many ways their current practices are not working. He is quick to point out that dissatisfaction alone does not lead to change.

The leader must help the group develop a compelling vision of how things could be different. The leader sparks the imagination of the members to see, smell, and taste what the improvement would be like. The members need to be able to see themselves incorporating the change.

The energy from the dissatisfaction and the compelling vision are still not enough. The leader needs to help the group implement the first small steps of the new practice so their initial experience is one of success.  Providing this guidance requires persistence and encouragement. It is essential, if the momentum of change is to overcome the resistance and sustainable change is to occur.

As a psychiatrist trying to help individuals make healthy changes, I have discovered that people do not give up their use of denial until they feel strong enough to do something about the problem they would have to see clearly if their denial broke.

When I think about political leaders getting out among their constituents and listening to their needs and continually encouraging them to believe in themselves, I see they are building the foundation for confronting constituents denial about how bad the situation is. The politicians are creating connection, acceptance, and confidence.

As the leader works with the group in developing the compelling vision and the first successful steps, they are helping the group make the change their own. When W. Edwards Deming helped post-WWII Japanese industries thrive, he had companies develop policies that encouraged workers to offer their own new ideas and take ownership in the production process.

How do you see Rutherford’s equation for change applying to your group and your efforts to help your fellow humans?


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