Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Wind of change
I haven't posted for a little while and to tell you the truth I haven't got a clue what to write now. I am alive and well... 'well' meaning things are pretty much the same. Except that I have been feeling pretty much demotivated by work and the feeling is so acute that it is spilling over into the rest of my life despite my best efforts to contain it and leave 'work' at work.
Change is an inevitable part of work these days and the team I am in are being subjected to a lot of change. I use the work 'subjected' advisedly. I am not one to balk at change. It has always been highlighted as one of my strengths in work appraisals and I have long since realised that change can be for the better and that if not, nothing lasts forever and things can always be changed back, or they will change yet again. I have long since learnt to sway with the wind of change like the reed in Aesop's fable, rather than break like the unbending tree. So why is this change causing so much stress?
While I was studying for my MBA I learnt that change is not just inevitable, but necessary in the business world. Organisations need to be able to adapt to the changing context they operate in. They need to meet evolving customer needs and they need to roll with the punches like the current recession in order to survive. I also learnt that there are methodologies that make such changes easy for everyone involved and that the flip side of that coin is that there are less than satisfactory ways to manage change.
Change is like a journey and if you are leading or managing a change initiative you need to take those affected on the journey with you. You need to be able to communicate what the change is about, why it is necessary and where you are heading.
You must involve those affected, consult with them and ensure that stakeholders are kept up to date and their views considered.
You must be cognisant of cultural factors, particularly when two teams are being amalgamated - all too often the meaning of words can be different as well as the accepted way that things are done.
You must plan how the change is going to happen and delegate areas so that people feel involved. You must get a senior manager to Champion the change and actually lead it in more than name.
You must review progress to ensure you are on track and address any concerns - remember resistors to change are not the enemy, sometimes they are resisting for a very good reason and it could be something you have overlooked!
Last but not least people should know what is happening and when and disruption to normal work should be minimised.
All this is is a 'should do' list, not a 'don't do' list! Change is never easy to manage and it is a learning experience for anyone involved, no matter at what level of the organisation. I have personally helped scope and manage two large change initiatives in the recent past and together with my Masters degree I feel I know the good from the bad from the down right ugly. From where I'm sitting right now, the view is not pretty at all.
If change is managed badly it can leave those affected demotivated and resistant. At best they will shut up and productivity will decline; at worst they may leave, taking skills and knowledge with them or they may undermine the change effort. Change is about making the organisation more effective and perhaps more financially efficient. When change is done badly it can become costly so why is it so often done badly by so many organisations? Essay answers please, on the back of a stamp or delivered by carrier pigeon.