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.

15 comments:

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It sounds like the changes happening there are really lousy! And I can see how it would also be rather demoralizing---especially if you feel it is all wrong and/or being badly done.
This may sound kind of radical, but maybe it is time to leave. Only you will know that, of course.

Hope your little kitties are giving you some needed diversion and lots of loving laughs....They certainly can lighten the Heart, can't they?

Bob-kat said...

Naomi - the real kick in the ass is that I volunteered my services to help manage the change and was dismissed out of hand. Not exactly the team ethos I was hoping for as I am on a management development scheme. Needless to say I am watching the internal recruitment notices for a post elsewhere.

bunnygirl said...

I'm sorry you're going through all that. Organization change can indeed be handled very badly. It can also be not handled at all, leading to stagnation and the perpetuation of inequities while everyone dithers or drags their feet.

At least you've got sweet kittens to come home to, and the disruptive changes will pass eventually. It'll only feel like forever. Are there any new hobbies you could perhaps take up that would restore your sense of being in control of something in your life? In my last job, I would've gone mad without my running and writing.

Sleepypete said...

Change is needed as things evolve but it always seems at our place as if there's a Big Heavy Steamroller at work when the time comes for teams to be combined ...

With all that weight of upper management, there's not too much sympathy going around for people issues.

Got some hefty change coming at our place too - trouble is the LongScrewdriver is likely to get us moving into teams with definite culture issues. Ho Hum.

Dianne said...

I was with a firm that was bought twice in two years and had 4 CEO's during that period

even the colors of the walls changed 6 times!!

we couldn't agree on voice mail greetings

it was so bloody exhausting

so many power plays and psycho dramas

hugs to the kitties!! let's see some new pics :)

hang in there

kenju said...

I am sorry that you are having to go through that, Bob-kat. Naomi is right - it may be time to look elsewhere.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I am SO the wrong person to talk to about this... But I'm standing in the background with a backstage pass for when you need a breather...

R. Sherman said...

I'm glad you're still around.

It seems the most important thing about change in a business organization is not the change(s) itself, but rather holding everyone's hand and providing reassurance to the rank and file during the period of change. That's the big problem with large entities, I think. The higher-ups think that they can just sprinkle pixie dust and wonderful things will happen, yet they refuse to actually lead, for which leadership they get paid a lot of money. At least in theory that's the way it's supposed to be.

Cheers.

rashbre said...

Quite often it is unsettling whilst people are all 'positioning' in the flux of the change.

The gurus came up with something along the lines of:

Stage 1 : Shock, Denial, Numbness
Stage 2 : Fear, Anger, Depression
Stage 3 : Understanding, Acceptance, Moving On

apparently people surf this at different speeds.

Bob-kat said...

Quite true Rashbre. I think the problem with this change is not so much that people (including myself) are resistant to the change or in denial but rather that consultation and even communication has been minimal and no-one really knows where we are going or why!

shooting star said...

hi bobkat...am back to your blog after a long time..and thats coz i was away from blog world coz of some important "changes" taking place in my life...some good and some bad...
talking about change....well...changes in personal life are easier to deal with as one is in control of oneself i guess.......at work..changes have to managed very well.....otherwise everything can go haywire..
reading about ur post reminded of a big change thats happening at my workplc..a new global logo has been launched and everything has to be chnaged...right from stationary to our corporate identity promotional materials...as i see it happening and being managed..i do see the importance of management of change!!!!
one has to be a strong leader to change things and manage it properly

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Thinking of you dear B-K and hoping things are a bit better..But, seeing that you haven't posted, I can only surmise that they are not...I am sorry about this for you, my dear. Truly.
I send you BIG (((((((HUGS))))))).
AND, I'm hoping you will find a place that truly appreciates you and your wonderful gifts.
Hi to those dear little Kittens of yours from me and Sweetie.

rashbre said...

...awaiting kitten updates :-)

Michael Manning said...

Bob-Kat: I agree with you. A person must be made to feel that they are genuinely acknowledged and validated. I just had a United Airlines pilot who read my interview with Gordon Bethune e-mail me from Colorado. He was shocked when I called him on the phone to acknowledge his note! But he took the time to write me and we had a one-hour conversation about how damaged United Airlines is and what might be done to save it. As American's we need a better balance with outside activities from work. You really hit the nail on the head here! I salute you, my friend. Well said!!:)

Marina said...

Your thoughts regarding change just echoed through me. This post made me reflect on this past year of teaching and how utterly defeated I had felt. So many different things have been changed including how we calculate our mileage for our travel (with no explanation why), how we must dress for work now in the upcoming school year, and how we complete our paperwork regarding students. At no point has anyone been able to offer me one single reason as to why these things have been changed aside from the classic, "Well, we had a few people who did ______ and now we all have to do this instead."

It's been enough for me to truly look into getting a new job; however, I'm stuck for the time being as I must pay back my grant for my M.Ed. with service time in the school. I will be very happy when I'm free of it. You completely captured all of my thoughts and then some in your post.