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It is a paradox that the one thing that does not change is change itself. Always there, energy sapping and confronting, change is a permanent feature in the modern corporate landscape. Beverley Head tracks its progress

People are willing to change. They're just not willing to change continuously, says Dr Max Jory, a senior lecturer in psychology at Monash University."Change consumes a lot of our resources," he warns.

Jory says that whenever change occurs, additional challenges are placed on the body and mind to cope with it, which reduces the amount of resources available for other tasks. Too much change and it becomes difficult to retain any form of control."One thing we like is predictability," says Jory,"so that we are capable of initiating actions and planning ahead. If we can't predict, then we can't make plans. Life would be chaotic."

Philip Carmichael, president of printer maker Lexmark Asia Pacific, believes that, by nature, people are reluctant to change, and so resist it."That's why it's important to implement changes one step at a time, to ensure they are achievable, sustainable and thereby allowing for people's acceptance," he says."Over the course of a year you should probably only attempt five major changes. These should be done one at a time with time to reflect and re-evaluate each completed project before moving onto the next. This ensures that each change is sustainable because if it isn't then you can't win the overall approval and respect of the key stakeholders."

Carmichael's utopian change environment is, however, far removed from the reality of everyday business where change is a constant and will not be confined by man-made boundaries. Economic conditions change. Sectoral structures change overnight, as for example they did with the recent US impost of 30 per cent tariffs on some steel imports. Legislation and regulation forces change. Staff churn alters the human mix. New technologies emerge. Budgets ebb and surge. Business structures alter. Businesses merge and acquire rivals or are subsumed into global networks. New management is brought in to the organisation.

"Computers in particular have created massive change," says Jory."You get used to a particular program - then they change it, and then they change it again. For the people having to use it, it places an enormous drain on their time and efficiency and you get to a point where there is a resistance level. It's not change itself, but the rate of change, which causes problems."

Going forward, the rate of change will not contract. CIOs then, who are often at the pointy end of change, need to immerse themselves in the management of that change, easing themselves, their staff, their users and their managers through the process, and ultimately delivering the benefits that make the pain of the change worthwhile.

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