“One basic assumption of adult learning is that we are at all times in a state of what has been called a “quasi-stationary equilibrium” and that we are always trying to stabilize our emotional and cognitive state, which is perpetually bombarded by new external and internal stimuli that have the potential for upsetting and moving the equilibrium to a new state.1 Many of these stimuli can be thought of as “driving forces” that push us toward something new, but we also generate within ourselves “restraining forces” that keep us at the present state. Learning or change takes place when the driving forces are greater than the restraining forces.”
In many change programs senior management announces a strategy of shifting from a production or engineering focus to a customer-centered marketing focus. When they do this they are asking many of their employees to make a major cognitive shift that they may not be able to make. When senior management announces they are going from a formal hierarchy to a matrix or networked project structure, they are asking their employees to grasp entirely alien concepts of how to work and how to think about authority. When senior management announces that employees should become more involved and empowered, they are asking both employees and supervisors to shift their whole cognitive frames of reference for what it means to be an employee or a supervisor.