Monday, August 15, 2011

The Seven Arts of Change

Change is the only constant - How many times have you heard that in life? And how many books have you read about how to deal with change? Plenty, I am sure. So what makes this book different from the rest?

Think back to the times when you have managed to tide over the change, made it a part of your life and changed along with that event. Why did that happen? Probably the main reason was because you internalised the change and accepted it spiritually. When deep down in your heart, in your spirit you accepted the change and realised that its good for you, the journey became simple and easy. But when your spiritual core did not agree to the change initiative, you fought it and probably did not change.

David Shaner's Seven Arts of Change talks about extending this concept across the organisation. Most change initiatives in an organisation fail because they end up being a top-level talk which make no impact on the individuals who are needed for the change. David talks about how it is imperitive that for the change initiative to succeed the organisation's spiritual core has to accept the change - not listen to the talk but walk the talk - and understand how it could be good for the future of the organisation. I know what you are thinking - an organisation's spiritual core? Now that's taking the talk of spirituality to an extreme. But think about it - what makes up the organisation's spiritual core? The people, of course. Make the people understand at their core spiritual level how the change is good for them, for the community, for their family and for their organisation and the change initiative will go through smoothly and will succeed.

David Shaner is well placed to talk about this process given that he has changed his life multiple times. He was the member of the Olympic Valley USA Ski Team where he gives an example of one of the Arts of change. He is a teacher of the art of Ki-Aikido and a seventh degree black belt holder. Plus he has served as a Fulbright scholar in India during Indira Gandhi's time. His credentials are impeccable to espouse on change initiatives and in some manner it does come out in the book.Gleaning from his experience David has come out with Seven Arts of Change which, if applied, can impact the spiritual core of the organisation and make the change initiative succeed.

Any change initiative has to begin with an assessment of the current state of affairs - (1) Art of Preparation followed by getting the message out to the people and making the goal personal - (2) Art of Compassion.

David implies that people have to believe that the final effect of the change can impact their personal lives. Once they believe that they will fall 100% behind the initiative. But to maintain it you need to set goals that can be measured, tracked and reported - (3) Art of Resposibility.

Change is a tough thing to do and to make it consistent the leaders need to show clarity of vision, demonstrate focus and make it visible. During a change initiative there will be negative force - distress and positive force - Eustress. It is critical to ensure that the organisation stays focused on the positive forces through (4) Art of Relaxation.

The key, of course, is execution. It is important that each person understands what their role is in the overall change initiative and knows how their actions contribute to the final goal - (5) Art of Conscious Action.

In any change initiative there are things that you can control and things that you cannot. You must focus on the things that you can impact and adapt to things that you cannot. You must sustain the change initiative but also keep your organisation prepared for future changes that will come. Keep your eye on the horizon and be connected with the world. This can be done through (6) Art of Working Naturally.

Any change initiative will succeed when you put the needs of others before your own need. Think about it from the other person's point of view and practice the other six arts every single day at every moment. When the people do this, any change initiative becomes a simple task. This is (7) Art of Service.

While the book does present interesting concepts and David pepers it with his experiences, it does become repititive and obvious sometimes. There are chapters when you feel that you have read this somewhere else. The Seven Arts of Change offers a few new ways of looking at Change but it is old wine in a new bottle.

I rate this book 3/5.


  1. Some of the principles in the Seven Arts are basic, as you say. Yet most people never put in the effort, time and awareness to actually master them. They turn away from what they are experiencing, some negative emotion or unpleasant energy moving in their body or pessimistic thoughts, as they practice the Arts. It is easier to distance ourselves from the work we actually need to do by looking for something new and sparkly, something that distracts us. To be effective, to have the track record the author demonstrates, one must engage exactly what comes up personally, interpersonally and organizationally as one practices the Seven Arts. Looking for something "new" or "different" is usually a way of ignoring what really needs to be connected-with and met effectively. Thus a concerted effort to practice and master the basics is essential in any art. Essential if you want to get beyond just messing around in the shallow end.