Monday, 9 August 2010

All Change - From Snowdon to the Amazon

I am again talking about change and how it affects us. I remember being horrified that Jaguar had produced a diesel variant, and then an estate version – that is not a Jaguar, I screamed! This week I read that they have laid a tarmac path to the summit of Mount Snowdon in Wales, to make it more accessible, why, why, why? Then again, there is already a railway up there and you can still do it the hard way if you want to (I know I do!)

Much is written about change and our reactions to it. I have been working recently with Royal Mail, who are undergoing a huge amount of change, some would say not before time. Much of the focus on the workshops was on debating and preparing for how people would react to change with considerable emphasis on those who would resist and even attempt to forestall the new ways of working. Of course not everyone is against change, indeed, many of the managers we were working with were positive and even excited about the opportunities that the changes promise. They also reported that many of their people, including union representatives were supportive of the changes.

This does not, of course mean that these champions and advocates are immune to the emotional upheavals common to resistors. They need at least the same consideration, support and encouragement as they will have doubts, concerns and even reversals. They will feel any setbacks or lack of progress acutely. If not suitably nurtured and recognised they may even defect to the nay-sayers.

My younger daughter has just completed her degree and is somewhat relieved that the academic ordeal is over and looking forward eagerly to starting her career. However, even change coming from success presents some challenges. She is now finding that it is not easy to secure a job, which frustrates her ambition and dampens her enthusiasm. Moving back into the family home means she has had to readjust to different norms and standards than those she has become accustomed to; her close circle of friends is dispersed to the four winds and all but lost, despite or maybe exacerbated by the apparent ease of maintaining contact provided by Facebook and email. So lots of changes all brought about by something she wanted deeply and worked hard to achieve. The euphoria and relief of graduation have been tempered with self-doubt and frustration.

Remember that denial and a range of emotion will precede the rationalisation needed for acceptance and commitment to the change, sometimes captured as the mnemonic DERAC. To help people through these stages we need to show that we understand and are willing to offer the support they need. (I remember these stages by reversing the letters and trying to show I CARED.)

A common piece of advice is to beware of spending too much time with the relatively small number of vocal resistors and instead to work with the undecided waverers, who usually form a quieter majority and if converted can provide the critical mass needed for success. Although this thinking is logical, I sound a note of caution. If your focus is too closely on those people, you may neglect your erstwhile allies and fail to recognise important signals of discontent. If you lose your champions, the struggle will be considerably greater to convert the rest.

Spare a thought for Ed Stafford, the intrepid former soldier who has just completed a marathon 4,000 mile trek to walk the length of the Amazon in 859 days. I am sure he is exultant at his record breaking achievement and relieved to have completed it. However, he will now face huge new challenges in adjusting to “normal” life again and without his goal to focus on.

So it is for my daughter and for those managers in Royal Mail, change is an inevitable part of life and careers, but it does exact a toll. Understanding and support from friends, colleagues and managers will help them all to cope.

A change, though can be as good as a rest. So for something different, have a look at http://www.recyclethis.co.uk/ for tips on recycling everything from old wall planners to empty walnut shells!

3 comments:

Steve Goodwill said...

I love that Ed's walking companion Gadiel 'Cho' Sanchez Rivera initially joined the expedition in August 2008 to "help this crazy man through a very dangerous area with drugs traffickers and hostile tribes".

mohit said...

I often hear people saying that "change is the only thing which is permanent!" I wonder how true is that...and Steve, u have rightly pointed out about DERAC...I have personally experienced that so many times...really enjoyed reading your blog...looking forward to read more of them...good luck!

Steve Goodwill said...

Hi Steve
Very interesting blog. A few years ago I looked at Belbin's work on Organizational Change and the dynamic of what he called Mowers & Growers! Mowers kept order & stabilty in the garden and Growers kept demolshing things and planting new things. So long as there was balance through good leadership, judgement & common sense, change could be managed reasonably well, however if either mindset gained total control an unhealthy situation would probably occur. Enron (the smartest guys in the room) was a classic case of the growers creating chaos; and in my experience of the Home Office
£4million was pumped in to clear a backlog that actually increased due to the mowers doing what they always did! Both cases of highly capable people behaving incompetetly!
Looking forward to the next working dynamic with you,
Cheers,
Harve.