Archive for the ‘Topic – Change Management’ Category

Living the American Nightmare

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

As an interested Brit, I stayed up most of the night and watched the US Presidential election unfold, eventually turning in around 5.30am by which time it was all over bar the shouting.  So it was real rather than a nightmare, but events from the past have slowly brought this election day result to the boil, which has resulted in the nightmare scenario.

That scenario is Donald Trump becoming President elect of the USA.

I found myself in a state of disorientation yesterday, trying to make sense of it all. Judging by comments I saw from American contacts on Facebook, and interviews on news bulletins there was (understandably) far more disorientation for those on the other side of the Pond.

The American Dream was defined by the American writer and historian James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book The Epic of America as, life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement … regardless of social class or circumstances of birth”.

Trump has certainly succeeded in making his life own life better and richer, and seized opportunities – he has been selected for the role of President of the US when in any job application process he would have failed at the paper sift stage due to lack of experience.

Sadly, he didn’t get to the social class bit of Adams’ definition. Which is where he divides opinion. He appears to judge everyone as to what they will do, what they will say and what role they should play in society due to their ethnicity, their race, their sex, their sexual orientation their physical disabilities … and he probably uses other discriminators too. This is what makes him so odious – and unacceptable to so many people.

How did the dream turn into a nightmare?

On the face of it, any Democrat should have beaten Trump – so what went wrong for the Democrats? Trump supported his campaign with huge amounts of money – the New York Times suggests loans to himself of $50m. Clinton had her share too, though – she raised about $75m, again according to the New York Times, through ‘super-PACs’.  These are, according to the Oxford Living Dictionary, “A type of independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates”.

Bernie Sanders didn’t have access to that sort of money – because he refused it. There may well have been other reasons why he didn’t beat Clinton, such as him not believing he could win, but this was key.

Whilst in the US in June this year, I found myself in conversation with a campaign manager for Mike Huckabee, the Republican candidate who by this time had dropped out. His view was that the Republican Party was very pleased that Clinton had beaten Sanders as she would be easier for the Republicans to beat than Sanders.  Since the result earlier this week, several people have argued this point, backed up with convincing data.

The result was that the electorate ended up with the two most unpopular presidential nominees in the history of NBC’s ‘Popularity Poll’, which dates back some 25 years. Clinton scored -20 and Trump -29, the scoring being the percentage of registered voters with a positive opinion of the individual minus the percentage with a negative opinion. For comparison purposes, within the same poll Obama was +8, Sanders +7 and Putin -51.  And this was prior to revelations about alleged sexual assaults and the FBI email server investigation, both of which would surely have only taken them further into the negative.

I felt for the electorate. I’m not sure I could have voted for either of them. Neither of them reflected my values.

And the last piece of the jigsaw to help Trump over the line was the “constitutional relic” that is the electoral college ‘first past the post’ method of election. At the time of writing this, Clinton is likely to have received 200,000 more votes overall than Trump, yet she loses. I cannot start to imagine how galling that must be for her and her supporters – although Al Gore knows the feeling, too.

That’s partially the history of how we have arrived at this nightmare – but that was only the falling asleep after eating too many carbohydrates too close to going to bed … the nightmare has yet to start.

The USA is a country of beauty and splendour, and many, many good and lovely people live there. It is also, however, deeply, deeply divided. Primarily in relation to colour and race, but also – like many other countries – in relation to socio-economic terms.

I have written here before about my own experiences of this in both New Orleans and more recently Kansas. The model I see is more akin to informal and culturally accepted racial segregation than effective racial integration. This is something that at some point the US must address more proactively.

Over the past 18 months, Trump has been building a tinderbox. He hasn’t created all the materials for it – those have been around for a long time – but he has brought them altogether. We are now waiting to see if he ignites the box.

The fear – expectation in some quarters – is that he will. As a result, there have already been marches and protests at the outcome of this election. It must be particularly worrying being a black person, a gay person, even being a woman at the moment in the US – and understandably so. We have seen in the UK how the Brexit vote has led to an increase in cases of racial discrimination and abuse.  One of the conversations on Facebook yesterday between friends in a southern US state included reference to how Trump’s election would empower the Ku Klux Klan and has “taken us back 50 years in time”.

Thankfully there are also many individuals taking responsibility and attempting to galvanise positive actions and intentions. One of my contacts, Scott MacLeod, put it particularly well on Facebook on the day of the election saying, You’ve done your civic duty. You voted. You probably, as I did, had some level of hesitation as you selected your choices. You recognize the importance of this election, and your role in the outcome. You are concerned about the future of the United States, and you voted, to the best of your abilities, for candidates that embraced your values. But for now, your role is over. The ballots have been cast and the democratic process is underway. Now, let’s embrace a new set of values – kindness, humility, compassion, and strength. Let’s pledge not to gloat or complain about the results of the election. Let’s treat each other with a newfound civility, and recognize that most participants in this election, even if many seemed misguided, voted their conscience and moral compass. United We Stand, Divided We Fall. Let’s come together and heal – the divisiveness can end if we want it to”.

After the result was known, and in response to a comment, he added, “If you believe that immorality won, then we have to be better moral agents in the face of that opposition. If you believe that fear won, then we must stand unified and strong. If you believe that selfishness won, then we must be much more generous and compassionate. Trump cannot heal the nation. We can”.

I hope more people think and act like that. And I hope Trump listens and acts with reason.

These are politically uncertain times. The next few months are going to be difficult times in the US. They are difficult for us in the UK too, as we manoeuvre our way out of Europe and see how racial tensions manifest themselves – but particularly difficult in the US due to the racial divisions (and not helped by the way many of its citizens view the use of guns).

And where next? Look no further than France. It has elections in early 2017. We know it already has a strong right wing party headed by Le Pen. Trump took energy and learned lessons from Brexit and Nigel Farage. Le Pen will similarly take from Trump.

You and I can do little about that. But you can do your own bit – as Scott put it, you can help heal your nation.

Or perhaps the culture at your place of work? Political behaviour, harassment, disempowerment, victimisation – they all take place in the workplace, and that’s where you can make a difference. As my mum used to tell me, “If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves”.

Take your responsibility and lead the change. Fix the culture.

Paul

Metro and Mail

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

In the early 1970’s at the age of 13, I went on my first international holiday. It was a school trip to Paris. I still remember aspects of it with great fondness – I say ‘aspects of it’ because I have forgotten a lot of what we did. The most memorable part, without a doubt, was going off and playing on the Metro one afternoon. We had been due to go to some pre-arranged activity, but a friend and I didn’t want to go – we wanted to see how many Metro stations we could visit in one afternoon (although I think our story was that we wanted to go to Pere Lachaise Cemetery as my Grandma had asked me to get some post cards of it).

Looking back on it now, I am a little surprised that the teachers allowed us to disappear off around Paris for half a day, not knowing where we were going (and obviously pre-mobile phones!) – but we were young, excited and gave no thought to whatever dangers a 1970s Paris may hold for two 13 year old lads …

Anyway, we had a great time – but we were doing it on a budget. A budget that required us to buy as few Metro tickets as possible.  We soon discovered that it was possible to insert the same small yellow Metro ticket into the entry machines more than once and still gain access. The machine punched a small round hole in the ticket to show that it had been used, but it was apparent that the machine was unable to detect whether or not a ticket already had a hole in it.

We got to the point where we were playing with the machines to see how many holes we could get in a ticket before it rejected the ticket. I recall that I got to 26 holes … I still have the ticket somewhere, but not sure exactly where.

I have been back to Paris since then and, as you may be aware, the ticket machines are far more sophisticated now. Whilst there may well be some very elaborate frauds available to those keen enough to spend a lot of time on such matters, a couple of 13 year old boys are unlikely to be able to use a ticket more than once.

It is understandable why they sorted it out – in terms of funding operations, tube fares really are the Metro’s lifeline. Whilst the Metro will have other revenue streams such as refreshment kiosks and advertising, their primary funding stream is the passenger. All fairly straight forward?

I would say so, but it appears not to be for the UK’s Post Office and Royal Mail.

The Post Office’s ‘raison d’etre’ is to deliver letters. Selling cards, holiday insurance and travel money must surely be ‘add-ons’ – particularly when there are apparently around 60 million letters posted each day (based on a six day week).

So if this is the main funding stream, it needs to be managed effectively – but it is not. I never cease to be amazed at the number of letters that I receive where the stamps have not been franked (i.e. had an ink date stamped across the stamps). The picture at the top of the page are ones I have received in the past month where the stamps are as fresh and clean as they day they were bought. The total value of those stamps is £5.98.

At the risk of appearing very sad, for the past three year I have monitored this issue around Christmas time and have found that around 15% of letters I receive with stamps on are not franked. What does this add up to in financial terms?

Let’s say the average cost to send a letter is 65 pence. If half of these use stamps (as opposed to other forms of paying postage) this equates to 180 million being sent a week at a cost of £117m per week (180m letters x 65p).

Over the year, this equates to £6.1b. A significant sum. 15% of this figure is £912m – that’s the value of stamps that are not being marked as ‘used’. If customers were to re-use 50% of those stamps (which I am not advocating) it equates to an annual loss of around £456m. A significant loss.

How can a company afford to lose that amount of money on something which is their core business? Machines that frank letters effectively can’t be too difficult to create, can they?  And even if they are, a quick memo along the following lines from employer to employee could start to eradicate the problem:

Dear postal worker, when delivering letters where the stamps have not been franked, please put a pen stroke across the stamps. Thank you.

Potential saving – almost £0.5b.

If the Post Office is so inefficient, no wonder it is being sold off. Did it lose its focus? Did it take its eye off the ball.

Whatever the size of your business or operation, it is always worth taking some time out every now and then to check you have your priorities right. As Richard Branson said, “To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself and focusing on the essentials”.

Paul

Happy Coaches for London?

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Happy news! Harrogate, North Yorkshire – where I live – is officially the happiest place the UK. This is according to the “Happy at Home Index” 2013. The local media made a lot of this. It may well have only stayed local news, however, Ant and Dec featured it as a quiz question on their Saturday evening TV show – so now everyone in the UK knows. This success needs reinforcing – perhaps the Town Council should consider changing the town’s name to “Happygate”?

My daughter came back from University a couple of days after the announcement of this very prestigious honour. It was – quite understandably – the first thing we discussed when I picked her up from the station. We decided to enjoy and experience some of this happiness. We started waving at other car occupants as we drove to Sainsburys. Unhappily, nobody waved back. We then looked for people in Sainsburys with that air of happiness. We stopped looking after a couple of minutes – and came to the conclusion that all the drivers and people in Sainsburys must be from out of town – coming to try and take in some of this happiness.

This week I am working in London … for a full seven days. I have written before about my love of London - and in particular its Tube and DLR system.  I am currently staying locally, and travelling to a place of work each day on the Tube. Living like a Londoner for a few days – and I’m like a kid in a toy shop!  I love the Tube … I like the smell, I like the names of the stations, I like watching the people … but I do think I’m in the minority.  Judging by the people on the Tube, their city probably didn’t come too close to Harrogate in the Happy League.

In fact, I mentioned this of the Tube to a couple of Londoners about a fortnight ago. One responded that this was because I didn’t use it every day. I then mentioned how fascinating I find it watching how people know the best carriages to be in to use the shortest cut-throughs at particular stations.  The two people then started discussing how they have particular seats; “For me the third seat in on the left from the middle double doors on the Metropolitan Line, but on the District Line I usually sit ….” It was something like that, anyway. I have to admit that I did start to lose interest in the conversation, until one of them then said, “But the Olympics – that was the worst time. Everyone was so happy. People were smiling and some tried to talk to other people – sometimes it was difficult to avoid them. Didn’t they realise some of us were going to work and not meant to be happy”.

I tried to picture the clash of cultures. Happy people on the way to the Olympics and unhappy people on their way to work. I assume there was only one winner – as there usually is where majority and minority cultures meet.

But, could it be different I thought? We know that happier people live healthier lives, and recent research has shown that those people who live together in a relationship tend to live longer than those who live alone. And we all know people who if they haven’t spoken to somebody for 10 minutes need to go and find someone to talk to – the extreme extraverts (how do they cope with a 45 minute Tube ride surrounded by people but with no one to talk to?).

On some main line train services they have “Quiet coaches” – perhaps there could be a “Happy coach” on each Underground train.

What will be the benefits? Well, they would include:

  • An Olympic legacy spanning further than sport
  • Underground travel opportunities which appeal to both Introverts and Extraverts
  • In about 50 years’ time, there will be research showing that people who generally travelled in the Happy Coach lived longer and healthier lives than those travelling in the other coaches

Well, Boris, what do you think?

Paul

 

London and Learning Legacies

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Almost 25 years ago I stood in torrential rain and watched one of the most evocative concerts I have witnessed. It was Jean Michel Jarre’s spectacular ‘Destination Docklands’. Originally planned as one concert, it eventually became two concerts (due to Council objections) and they took place on a Saturday and Sunday in October 1988.

The audience stood and sat on what was derelict land – land that is now one of the Olympic venues, the ExCeL  Arena, which hosted the boxing.

Fast forward to the present day. Last month, the new Olympic Stadium – also in East London – held  the most spectacular event since Jarre’s oncert; the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

There were significant similarities between the two. The Opening Ceremony told the story of a rural Britain instigating the Industrial Revolution on behalf of the world, followed by post-war immigration and then celebrating social welfare, British music and its current multi-cultural make up.

Jarre’s concert was divided into four sections, the first of which was devoted to the Industrial Revolution. Part Two was London in the Swinging Sixties (when Jarre was joined on stage by Hank Marvin), the third section was the forthcoming digital Nineties, and the final section was ‘The Emigrant’.

Having said that, the differences in the environments were striking. The Olympic Stadium is set in beautifully landscaped gardens, with fantastic public transport and a huge, bright shopping centre close to its entrance.

On my way to and from the Jarre concert, I can remember being uncomfortable for the majority of the time, and very uncomfortable on a couple of occasions. East London was not a welcoming place in the late Eighties.

It was still the London described by The Clash in “London Calling” and The Jam’s “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight”“ …Whispers in the shadows – gruff blazing voices, hating, waiting …”.

Nothing changed in London as a result of the Jarre concert. Lots has changed, and lots more will change, as a result of the Olympics. Only time will tell what the legacy will be, but there are firm plans and noble intentions.

The reasons for the difference? In the case of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, the aforementioned plan, infrastructure, investment and community involvement. Reasonably obvious, I guess.

Move the context to organisational development. I was recently asked to submit a proposal for a number of sessions to help an organisation’s managers navigate it successfully through a period of significant change – spookily enough, in south east London. My tender included a number of additional offerings at no additional charge – for managers requiring them, a number of Action Learning Sets, email and phone consultation on real situations faced by the managers, and a number of one to one coaching sessions if desired. I offered these because I know that for development to work, people need the opportunity to build on their learning, discuss real problems and opportunities, and seek assistance with specific scenarios.

A couple of weeks after submitting my submission, they rang me. The discussion was mainly around whether there would be any cost difference if they didn’t use the additional free offerings. I said there wouldn’t be. The person’s final comment was, “You see, we only want some training sessions”. My alarm bells rang. Perhaps they were just wanting to tick a box? Our relationship didn’t develop any further. And I was reminded once again of those two spectacular concerts.

For effective development to take place, it needs to be supported by the organisation, there needs to be a plan as to how it will be implemented and then how it will be supported post-implementation. It doesn’t matter how good the intervention is if this support isn’t here. Lasting change – that’s what development should be all about.

Paul

Building the Perfect Vision

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In my previous post, I outlined the components of a good quality Vision, together with examples of good and not so good offerings. In this post I will explain how to create a meaningful Vision.

For a Vision to be effective, not only does it need to meet the suggested criteria listed in the previous post, it also needs to be owned by the company or departmental staff, and both understood and valued by the customer base. The following process will enable you to achieve all this.

  1. Brainstorm or board-blast words and short phrases that describe what your organisation or department is to be about. This activity can be undertaken both internally and with customers, although the sessions should be run separately.
  2. Having undertaken this with one or more groups, look at all the words and phrases you have generated. You will see some themes and overlaps. Some words will have similar meanings. Group the words and phrases together where possible – using one colour for customer comments and another colour for staff comments.  This will give you an indication of which themes are numerically most important to the people you have consulted with, together with a check of the weighting from each of the two groups.
  3. Now prioritise your themes. Which are shared by both staff and customers? As the leader of the company or Department, which ones meet with your long term view? Which are most important to the success of your venture?
  4. Within each theme, is there a word that encapsulates, as far as possible, what the theme is about? If so, make a note of it. If not, is there a two-word phrase that sums it up? This step of the process is all about simplifying the theme and looking to take it forward as succinctly yet as accurately as possible.  You will never fit all the comments people have made into a sentence of a few words – so you will have to be prepared to accept inclusion by implication – and this is what you should be seeking to achieve with this step.
  5. Put your prioritised words together in a phrase. As I have mentioned previously, the phrase needs to be memorable, and as many people as possible need to be able to understand how their contribution has helped form and been included within the sentence.

If you get to this point, well done! It isn’t easy to get to this position, and it is time consuming – but it is well worthwhile.

The last time that I undertook this process was when I was leading a large Learning and Development function within an organisation. The Vision that I settled on was “Partners in Developing Performance”. This reflected the requirement to work with other parts of the organisation in an Adult and objective manner, together with the recognition that we existed to develop people, and that our Department needed to make a positive impact on organisational performance.

I found it very helpful in articulating what we were all about, and ensuring that all our activities fitted with this Vision or value. The most pleasing impact was when one of the trainers – on his own initiative – had delegate desk name plates (i.e. a folded card where the delegate wrote their name as a part of their introduction) printed with the Vision on. Proof that it was owned and valued by staff!

Furthermore, due to its positive impact, the HR Department adopted an amended version of it – “Partners in Managing our People”– for their own use.

So if it can be so effective, why don’t more organisations and departments do it? There are many potential reasons – here are some of them:

  • Looking for instant results – if that’s what you want, you probably will not invest the time in a Vision
  • Bureaucratic – it can be viewed as such where people don’t understand its value
  • Fear or embarrassment – it can be seen as a bit different if people haven’t been involved in such a process before
  • Inadequacy – some people tell themselves that they couldn’t lead such a process. Remember, there are facilitators who would be able to assist you with the process
  • Fatigue – there will be many other things on your plate, and it can be an easy one to push off the side.

But try it – clear these potential blockages and set out your Vision.  Be clear on where you and your team are going.

Once you have your Vision, you can develop your Mission – which will be your over-arching objective or overall aim. This could be your objective for where you will be in 5 years’ time. You can then work backwards setting objectives as to what needs to be in place or happen to get you to that point. Your path will have clarity for your staff and stakeholders.

Which takes me back to where this all started – the writing of a Strategy. The Vision can make this easier, and in my next post I will outline a template for creating a meaningful Learning and Development Strategy.

Paul

I have a Vision – do you?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Recently I have received a surge in emails requesting assistance on writing Learning and Development Strategies. It seems like everyone is at it. It encourages me that so many people are keen to define their strategic goals, however, it does also concern me that often people may be doing it to tick a box – and the document is created, and then forgotten about.  For a strategy to work, it needs to become a living document, to move from the 2-dimensional to the 3-dimensional.

I believe that there is a key step that should take place before writing the strategy – a step that can make the difference between the resulting product being a living document and a paper exercise. But very few people or organisations undertake it.

It’s the creation of a Vision. The creation of a Vision can conjure up ideas, enable ownership of a shared dream of the future, motivate people and focus everyone’s thinking.  It can be undertaken by whole organisations, or key departments within organisations.

What is your company or Department’s Vision? If it has one, can you remember it? Do you have ownership of it? Does it motivate you?

Think of some of the Visions that other organisations have.  Two of the best ones that I am aware of are John Lewis’ “Never Knowingly Undersold” and Ikea’s “Affordable solutions for better living”. So what makes these so good?

Well, a Vision needs to be:

  • Achievable
  • Communicable
  • Memorable
  • Sustainable
  • Probably not longer than 7 words
  • Use terms that everyone can recognise, relate to
    and remember
  • Describe what you see
  • Inspirational

And it should avoid being:

  • An intention
  • Like an objective
  • Bureaucratic
  • Committee-speak
  • Measurable

Both my previous examples fit with these requirements, as does my personal favourite – FedEx’s “The world on time”.  Those four words give such clarity as to what FedEx wants to be, yet so simply and memorably.

But not all are this good. Nike’s, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”, and Amazon’s, “To be earth’s most customer centric company”, are reasonable, but the use of the word ‘To’ at the start making them sound too much like objectives.

Moving down my leader board, we arrive at Virgin Atlantic’s, “The success of our three year strategy requires us to build on these foundations by focusing on the business and leisure markets and driving efficiency and effectiveness”. Memorable? Inspirational? I don’t think so.

And, in my opinion, the worst of all belongs to Heinz. Their 73-word offering is, “Our Vision, quite simply, is to be ‘The world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.’ Being the premier food company does not mean being the biggest but it does mean being the best in terms of consumer value, customer service, employee talent, and consistent and predictable growth. We are well on our way to realizing this Vision but there is more we must do to fully achieve it.”

If they had left it as the ‘quite simply’ part, then it would be good – but someone felt the need to, “Yes, but …” it, and the moment was lost. And with it went any inspirational, communicable or motivational qualities it may have had. But perhaps it’s more difficult when you need to include 57 varieties!

If your company or Department has a Vision, how good do you think it is? If it doesn’t have a Vision, would you benefit from having one? In my next post I will give suggestions as to how to create a FedEx quality Vision.

Paul

Leading through change

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Handling change effectively can be really satisfying. We are generally not the instigators of change, almost always the recipients of some change or other and are sometimes required to implement it.  This makes it important – but it isn’t always managed as if it’s important. It needs the human touch.

If we reflect on some of those times when we have been recipients, we may well be able to come up with examples of how the change was managed well. We can almost certainly come up with examples of occasions when it was not dealt with as well as it could have been.

Because of the emotions that experiencing change can generate, it is an area of management where the manager can have a particularly positive or negative impact. And whilst the manager may also be affected by the change process, he or she will do well to invest some time into managing it well – if they want as motivated and effective staff as possible post-change. It is a short-term investment of time that reaps long-term gains.

In my previous blog post, I described four 4 types of people we encounter during change – The Entrenched, The Overwhelmed, The Whirling Dervish and The Learner. And where they sit depends largely on their ability and willingness to deal with change.

Having previously described their probably reactions, I said that in this post I would give you some hints on how to manage the different individuals. This will help you to assist them as effectively as possible – or understand how you need to be managed in order to deal with the change as well as possible.

The Entrenched – You need to attend to The Entrenched person’s emotions or stress. A phased introduction of the changes will help them, as will clearly linking them to their past successes.  Don’t expect too much too soon from them, or you may have another Overwhelmed person. Find safe places and situations for them to test their learning, and use Learners as role models.

The Overwhelmed – The Overwhelmed person needs to be shown understanding in dealing with their stress and fear.  They need lots of support and encouragement for the future, and they require protecting from rapid empowerment or responsibility. Ensure that they can achieve some quick or easy wins. Finally, use effective colleagues to promote their confidence – you cannot do it all yourself!

The Whirling Dervish – Whatever you do, don’t empower The Whirling Dervish or let them loose with a wide remit! You need to limit their influence over others, hold them accountable for anything you ask them to implement and give them plenty of feedback. Ask them to address core issues and solutions, not symptoms and quick fixes. Help them recognise and address the true extent of their abilities.

The Learner – You need to help fill any gaps in The Learner’s personal knowledge. Focus them on processes rather than the task. Give them the freedom to model learning for others, and consider offering them new and demanding roles with high impact opportunities.  Learners can sometimes take on too much and become all things to all people – support them and ensure that this doesn’t happen as you don’t want to lose your Learners.

If you have been able to identify your own ‘preferred’ position, do some of these tips on how you should be managed make sense? Or as a manager, can you see how they would work with your staff?

Remember, attitudes are caught, not taught. If you as a leader or manager are negative about change, your staff are likely to follow the example you set. And effectively managing the human dimensions of change can have a really significant impact on the performance of a team or business.

Paul

The Human Dimensions of Change

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

There is much change taking place at the moment. Here in the UK there are many people, particularly in the public sector, soon to be looking for different jobs, and many other people are having their roles changed due to organisational restructures. Difficult personal times.

And they are often made more difficult than they need to be by how they are handled. I have for some time worked on the basis that there are four main categories that people experiencing change fit into. I have seen these labelled as The Entrenched, The Overwhelmed, The Whirling Dervish and The Learner. I have absolutely no idea who came up with these classifications, but if you know, it would be great to be able to mention them and give them the credit.

So which are you? Or where do those people you manage fit? By understanding more about how change impacts on us, we can help ourselves – and our colleagues – to cope with such situations more effectively. Here’s a little more detail to help you to understand the categories.

The Entrenched – An Entrenched person has the ability to learn and capacity to change, but is generally not particularly willing to engage in this. The change experience can lead to them feeling frustrated or angry, and to be frightened of what the future holds. They are confident of their proven skills and their past performance – and as such, may well work harder to seek to justify their existence and prove that there is no need for change. They can struggle to understand the organisation’s change in attitude towards previously valued behaviours. They also tend to dismiss the reasons for the change.

The Overwhelmed – Like our Entrenched colleagues, our Overwhelmed people are not willing to engage in the change. Where they differ from the Entrenched is that they don’t particularly have (or believe they have) the capacity to change or the ability to learn the required new skills or processes. This potentially makes them feel powerless, fearful and unhappy. In order to deal with these emotions they can avoid issues and block stressful events. They can blame and commiserate – and hope that normality will return. They also tend to avoid risk, focus on the safe and known tasks and look busy.

The Whirling Dervish – Our Whirling Dervishes really rather look forward to the change, and are willing to embrace it. Unfortunately though, they tend not to have the capacity to make the required changes and learn the new skills. This leads to them being ready to get going with the changes and wanting to implement change – any change. They can be over-confident in their own abilities and as such seek positions of influence. They want quick action and visible results. They are surprised by and unsympathetic towards colleagues who demonstrate caution or concern for the future. They can have a particularly negative influence on Overwhelmed colleagues – as they attempt to lead such people down the garden path.

The Learner – Our final category of people has both the willingness to embrace the change and the capacity to learn the new skills. They tend to be a little anxious, but they are optimistic as they can see the positive benefits – they tend to have a balanced approach, being able to see the pros and the cons. They focus on any problems rather than apportion blame. They are not afraid of making mistakes, and can find humour in difficult circumstances and use it to help others.

Have you been able to – even roughly – label yourself?  Perhaps you can identify where some of your colleagues fit?

This human dimension to change is really important – and the more we understand it, the better we can cope with it – or for managers, the better they can assist others.

In my next blog I’ll give some ideas as to how we can help and manage people within each of these categories to deal with change more effectively.

Paul