April 2002
Thoughts Around Change and Change Management
Why do we often function as two separate people – having an approach and values at work that differ from our home life? Why does re-engineering or re-structuring our companies create nervous tension or concern? Perhaps it's about control. Perhaps it's because our company restructuring doesn't often start or involve the likes of you and me. Perhaps someone else is looking at our lives and deciding to turn them upside down or to take us out of our nice comfortable working life and put us somewhere new, somewhere we didn't ask to go. We've lost the control we had. We had our short to mid term lives planned out and it was dependent on the money we knew we would earn each month. Perhaps.
Or is it that we don't like the unknown? We don't like sitting in a void that isn't where we were (although business as usual is the company message) and we don't know where we are heading. Re-engineering, re-structuring, mergers or acquisitions can take months or even years and we have to somehow manage the "non change". The company may bring in change management consultants to help but there appears to be a long period of time when life in this potential change bubble – where working life is sometimes suspended (except the database has to be cleaned and closed on time) and we just don't know.
You see if we were senior management we'd do it differently. We'd make sure that the hundreds of people that are involved didn't feel this way. We'd be open, honest, communicate continuously and listen to the people that do the day-to-day work. We'd also fail in all business objectives because you simply can't consult everyone. Sometimes a somewhat small group of people working in the background to launch "the new organisation" may seem underhand to you or me but it's an approach that removes the potential uncertainty, fear or nerves and replaces them with shock, anger or – the injustice of it all.
Change is exciting, stimulating it's what makes things worthwhile sometimes. We have to go out of our way to try harder. We feel rewarded when we get through it...
Change isn't easy. At work, change is almost impossible. It is not a "thing", an object we can knowingly address. Instead it's a highly charged emotional time bomb. Feelings get in the way of change. Our emotions affect the decisions we make. We approach these sometimes with facts and figures but then we have to deal with the internal effect it has on us or the people that we work with.
Change happens all the time. If we have lived a single life style and now are thinking about living with our partner, or if we are now thinking about having a child, we are looking to do something that will have a significant impact. A major change. At such times we can research before deciding by reading new parenting books, or talk to change management consultants (our friends and family) about the change we want to make. We can even set up pilots by living with our partner for a 3 month period or going on holiday together or looking after a friend's child whilst they are away for a long weekend. There is so much we can do to help us make the right decision. But what we quite simply just can't know is how this change is going to make us feel. It's an unknown just as when a merger is announced at work. You can't control what or how you will feel.
Change - we don't like it but we can't live with out it
So we have choices. We can try and live our lives with little change, no major decision, no upheaval. But that's not realistic or attractive. Change is exciting, stimulating it's what makes things worthwhile sometimes. We have to go out of our way to try harder. We feel rewarded when we get through it...
Change management - how ever many layers there are or people involved, it comes down to how we can change our own lives. We can change companies, take a year out, move industries, go for promotion. We can do what we want to do to manage the change around us.
We may not be able to influence the change itself but we are in control of how we react to it and that is the key to being able to manage change internally. Knowing that even if you feel like you do at the moment – like losing a close relative and having to cope with loss and grief – you can, in time deal with the change. You personally, with help from those close to you, can face changes to your personal life that were out of your control. You can respond to a restructuring at work and know that how ever 'up in the air' things may be during the change you will make sure you are alright when it's all complete.
The author's name has been withheld. This is because the thoughts and comments do not relate to current situations or the employer for whom the author works. It has been included in the Newsletter because it hopefully stimulates thoughts around change and change management. If Members want to respond – have comments on what has been written, disagree or have personal experiences that add to the article, then write to the Newsletter Editor editor@acdm.org.uk and share your thoughts with the members.