AXELOS ProPath, the world's most powerful project, programme and portfolio best practice certifications

Building resilience to change

Elissa Farrow
April 28, 2014

Lately I have been running a number of resilience workshops for a client of mine and it has demonstrated the fact that people need to be reminded that they have a lot of experience and strengths with change that they forget about when they are in the heat of change.

I have 40 years’ experience in change. My change management CV commenced when I was about four or five years old when starting kindergarten. It was the first time I was away from my mum and dad. I remember it wasn’t a pleasant first few days of skipping into kindy but instead a bit hard, clinging to mum’s legs, crying and being lured in by a kind teacher with distractions of toys, food (particularly bananas) etc.

Grown-up change can be like that too. A number of change theories talk about building a compelling reason for change, the desire, the incentive, the unfreeze. Resilience develops naturally over time: we build up our tool box as we go through life’s many changes, both the good and the not so good. Change can still be challenging and difficult and sometimes change makes us turn into little children again.

So I have been working with my clients to build up their tool box. The first question I ask people is to discuss the tactics they have used over their life which have been positive. What was the impact of these tactics on the situation? How did it look, feel when you were using these tactics?

My classes have filled boards and boards of ideas. A number of tactics are simple but it is interesting how our brains work; when we are stressed the blood and effort goes to surviving as opposed to thinking logically.

Some of the tactics we raised were:

  • Talk to a friend, family member or colleague
  • Get professional advice and assistance (legal, psychological or medical)
  • Have some alone time
  • Get out and do some exercise
  • Break the stress down into smaller pieces
  • Have some relaxation time to still the mind
  • Spend time with pets
  • Work in the garden or walk in nature
  • Laugh and think of the positive
  • Do some art, read a book or do a jigsaw puzzle
  • Take a third position to get an alternative view

I strongly encourage you to have a list of your tactics handy and the impact of each to remind yourself when you are actually going through change. I try to practice at least a couple of these every single day. Which tactic will you use today?

Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
Read more