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Nuvo Quo

Change. It’s unsettling and exciting. It’s evolutionary and inevitable. It’s widely initiated and frequently resisted.

Alvin Toffler, in his 1970 book Future Shock, says we can only take so much change before we hit overload and shut down mentally to additional change – like a sponge reaching its saturation point.

The pace of change has increased dramatically since Toffler defined Future Shock, and our capacity to adopt change has evolved also – but limits still affect us.

At a recent meeting, the facilitator did an observation exercise in which one person altered their appearance and the other tried to identify the changes. A few minutes after the exercise, the facilitator noted that most individuals reversed the changes – returning to the comfort of the pre-change conditions. The illustrated principle – after change, people strive to return to status quo (the old normal state) – they try to re-establish what was before.

Simple examples of this tendency – New Year’s resolutions, diets, personal development training… a strong pull to return to the old way.

So what happens in an organization when the changes have eliminated the status quo for the individual? They will make up a new story – new rules – a new norm – to replace the no longer available status quo. They create nuvo quo – a new normal state – to guide them in their roles. Nuvo quo helps the person regain the feeling of control of their environment. There is no coordination with mission or vision of the organization as the individual develops a New Normal state – to mitigate the uncomfortable feeling of change overload. Communication of nuvo quo to the leaders of the organization is virtually unknown.

Conflicts develop between what the individual is doing and what the organization expects the individual to do – “Just doing my job (as I define it)” versus “not doing your job (as documented in the position specs)”. An employee of a transportation agency boasted in an external meeting that he had the ability to completely shut down an entire sector of the transportation industry country-wide with just the flick of a computer key – wonder if that’s part of the ops plan for the agency and under what controlled circumstances?

Have any examples of Nuvo Quo after a change in the organization? Please share.

This may be of interest –

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Charles A. Ray

Outstanding article, and so true. The only way I’ve found to get people to accept change of the ‘status quo’ is to spoon feed change slowly, so slowly in fact that they’re often only vaguely aware of it. The only time I push change hard and fast is when the situation is such that immediate change is necessary for safety or to meet an emergency. The best change is like learning to ride a bike, you’re not sure when you learned, only that you’re no longer falling off the darned thing.

Jack Gates


Thanks for the comment. You are on target…if a leaders doesn’t instill the vision, the individual makes it up – and over time it becomes part of the legend of responsibilities.

I can recall in one organization the PR department was eliminated and 5-years later the CEO discovered the monthly PR Report was still being produced because an individual had developed it long ago and it was a significant part of their workload and output ‘prestige’…their nuvo quo was the report was necessary regardless of whether or not there was a PR function.