Professionally Speaking

Cozying Up to Change

What can you do to help your people roll with the inevitable?

As I’ve learned from my management education, change is an inevitable part of business. I know change is a good thing and is important, as well as necessary. But I’d be lying if I said I always really enjoyed change itself. Like anyone, I thrive being within my comfort zone. Steve makes some interesting points, but there are a few areas I’m not sure I agree with. It’s one thing to learn about the nice cool new features of the next version of your favorite product (after all, this is one of the reasons we love a technical career), but it’s another thing entirely when your job role changes without warning for reasons you don’t yet understand. Or worse, if a newly announced organizational restructure promises make you a candidate for redundancy.

At the moment there’s a parable in the popular business book, Who Moved My Cheese? that illustrates the importance of the need for accepting, anticipating and then being prepared to change. Logically, I can see the sense of what’s presented, although I found the text itself overly simplistic to the point of being almost insulting (not to mention overpriced, as the book itself is less a hundred pages!). I’m not sure that “move with the cheese and enjoy it” resonates with me. Even for the major life changes I’ve initiated myself, it’s taken me some time to get settled again and be really sure I’ve made the right decision, let alone changes imposed on me. Human beings really are creatures of habit, and I’m probably no different than most. Some people love change; then again, some people love to relax by jumping out of planes.

It’s incumbent on me to communicate why the change is necessary and why it’s beneficial to them personally. Only then can I expect to be able to successfully implement a major change.

More and more I’ve come to the realization that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to make anyone in my span of control do anything they don’t want to do—and this includes change. This means I can’t unilaterally make changes and have everyone automatically follow enthusiastically. Sure, people will half-heartedly humor me once or twice; but over time, creative inertia sets in—there are too many seemingly good reasons not to do what I want them to do. The only way I can effectively get people to accept change is to generate the desire in them. So it’s incumbent on me to communicate why the change is necessary and why it’s beneficial to them personally, as well as to the company. Only then can I expect to be able to successfully implement a major change. Steve’s PBX implementation example illustrates the power of communication to your stakeholders affected by a change, but I also believe that, unless we generate in people an acceptance of the need for the change, it could be an uphill battle to implement.

Change is inevitable in modern business. In our field, we experience a great deal of it—often because the nature of technology is a catalyst for that change. I don’t think most people relish change itself, but if we first acknowledge our reservations, we can then understand the nature of our own feelings and successfully work through them to be successful in our changed organization. Internally, we can feel a physiological reaction to the stress induced by our changed environment, even when we consciously know the change is for the best. But there’s no point in resisting the inevitable—it’s a waste of effort that could be better spent on more productive endeavors. Just don’t expect me to always like it.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com and CertCities.com.

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