.. as I teach so do I learn (Iyanla Vanzant)
Last week I had the pleasure of starting a change management subject with the Municipal Association of Victoria Grad Dip of Management students with Swinburne University. It’s been a long held belief (of mine) that rarely can you “teach” much to adults who have been through several organisational changes. Give them a blank piece of paper and they’ll pretty much design the perfect change program. You can help them to think differently about their approaches and make more considered decisions about how they influence, introduce and sustain change. This belief was not challenged in the first class – the group are fab – articulate and well versed in organisational change management.
But we’re playing with the idea of a blank piece of paper online. We’re going to create a virtual learning journal / blog post to capture the insights, and challenges that exist based on the content covered. This will help develop all of our thinking about change and also give the guys practice at using collaborative technology platforms eg google docs to create and wordpress to publish. It’s also a version of “Working Out Loud” So on that note – over to the cohort of MAV!
In the first week:
One of my key learnings for the day was around the danger of perceived control. I felt that it was best to ensure that the approach to change is collaborative and engaging with the people involved. However I had not considered the impact of a situation which Jennifer called ‘pseudo collaboration” where you design a process which is highly collaborative in order to give people the perception that they have control when really they don’t.
Jennifer said “trust is the currency of change”. So if you go to your people with a process which gives the perception that they have ownership and they really don’t you have violated trust and you have lost the respect of those people.
So deciding early in the design of change whether you are going for the collaborative and engaging approach—or the brutal shock of here is your new role, here is the new leadership team and this is how we will now be operating—and not clouding the two, is crucial to the success of change implementation.
Quote of the day (Jennifer) “The foundation for me is respect, if respect is your bedrock of any change management program then you will be ok”
The first thing I wrote down in my notes was “trust is the currency of change.”
Which was important to me going forward in a role as a change leader, change influencer, change manager. Trust is one of my key values, central to who I am. This gave me confidence.
Another insight for me from today is the notion of failure and degrees thereof in terms of change. Building on some previous work, knowing the right way to fail is imperative in good leadership. And failure is not actually a bad thing (ask Edison!) Change is not a pass/fail.
Building on that notion, it is important to recognise things that are working and don’t need changing…these are often overlooked and change is seen as a wholesale thing, where absolutely everything must change. No. It must not. People need anchors of stability in times of change and uncertainty. It is wise in any change process to offer some stable elements if you want people to embrace change.
The debate topic helped confirm my belief that strategy without respect to culture will end up gathering dust on a shelf. I liked the notion of “bridging culture.” Incremental change to culture is a more palatable way of moving from an undesirable cultural state to a desirable one.
I’ve always assumed organisational change management is about restructure, new systems, new leaders etc etc…I realise though that organisational change management is also about the individuals who make up the organisation; their thoughts, beliefs and emotions in any given moment.
When people experience life changing events they see ‘life’ through a different lens, and this includes their work environment. Since returning from the Camino I’ve been grappling with the change within and how the ‘new’ Kym fits in…fits in to her personal life and professional life. And importantly, how do I use these inner changes to influence the organisation I work in because for me what was once important is no longer, or should I say priorities have shifted; personally and professionally. The ‘organisational’ collective thought seems even more ludicrous to me than it did prior to the Camino, where much thinking comes from a place of lack and limitation, when I know there is no such thing; there is only abundance and limitlessness…
So how do I manage, or is it use, my internal changes within the context of a seemingly ‘static’ organisational environment that continues to hold on to the same old attitudes, beliefs and behaviours…do I fit into the mould as I once did, or do I take a courageous step and use the internal changes to influence broader organisational change? As long as I do it with respect for the current culture and people who make up that culture, and trust that I can influence change, I guess I can do it.
Do we hate change? This a question posed in class. My initial answer is yes, who hasn’t been through a change process and felt disappointed, angry or frustrated with the lack of investment, understanding or compassion by the change manager. I have seen my share of downsizing, amalgamation, contracting out services, restructuring, process, policy, and technology and system changes. I have seen it done poorly, without consideration for the people with skin in the game.
Thankfully, I have also seen it done well, where the outcome feels like utopia and team are united and high performing. Given deeper consideration, I don’t hate change! I just hate it being done to me and feeling like I have no control over the outcome. My worst experiences are because of the change manager not respecting the people involved and seeing it as a project rather than a complex system involving people.
My observation has been; people that have always benefited from change are the ones that are engaged in the process and have seized the opportunity and got involved. When I have got involved in change I have always benefited somehow – career, new positions, job satisfaction, development opportunity, learning skills, gaining experience.
“Respect is the foundation of any change management process” (Jennifer) this quote was the one thing that resonated with me most during our first class. Having been through a change process at a previous organisation and in hindsight, respect for those who were most effected was sadly lacking.
The other key learning that stood out to me is the need to focus on the ‘process’ that is changing not the ‘people’ and that not all the processes will change. From experience belief that everything is going to change is very strong amongst those faced with change and worry that they will no longer be able to perform their roles breeds resistance to change. Probably one of the reasons that we believe that ‘people hate change’.
These learnings have given me new insight into how I can assist my small team to handle the impending changes that our organisation is facing.
Student # 5
What did I tell you? Some clever clogs here…