Tag Archives: change

Co-creating your organization’s future

Here’s something daring for a Change Management professional to say: change can’t be managed.

You can (and must) lead your organization through a project, a re-organization, or a set of circumstances that changes your operation in fundamental ways. But in the end, “management” doesn’t work.

You may think you can control the process, and if so you may be in for a surprise. I won’t say an “unpleasant” surprise, because there’s always some good that comes out of “failure.” At the very least, you’ve gained valuable insights. At most, you and our organization have grown in ways you hadn’t anticipated.

You may be surprised that your team doesn’t see change the same way you do. You may see that some positions will need to be eliminated and you want to downplay that reality. You may not be contemplating a change in personnel at all – you only see the upside to change. You may be surprised that immediate cost savings are not apparent when you finally implement a change.

You will ask someone like me “How do I get my team to see this change as a great thing for our organization?”

And I will screw up my courage to be quite candid and say: “You can’t.”

You cannot decree how people in your organization are going to perceive the changes you are planning. You cannot manage disruption caused by the need to retrain for new processes and systems, or hide (for long) the fact that change may mean some people lose their jobs. You may not be anticipating job losses at all, and you can follow the best practices in change management, yet you will still get “resistance” and a drop in productivity.

Why? Because people are complicated, because your organization is complex, because most elements of an organization’s culture are hidden under the surface, and because people adapt to change in unexpected ways.

And then you will say to me: “Well if change can’t be managed, why should I hire you?”

And I will say: “Because your job as a leadership team is to create the conditions where you and your employees and stakeholders are co-creating your future together, and that’s what I can help you with, if you’re up for it. It’s never as straightforward as you think it is, but co-creating a resilient and healthy organization has rewards beyond a single project.”

No one gets to choose how another person will react to change. But you do get to choose how you structure your organization. As a leader, you are uniquely positioned to create conditions where change means progress and productivity, not fear and loathing. Do you encourage resilience? Is every part of your workplace aligned to a shared purpose? Do you empower your employees and stakeholders to act and think for themselves towards that shared purpose

Creating the conditions for employees and teams to take responsibility for their own success is quite frankly a scary proposition. That’s the paradox of leadership: letting go of the outcome makes for better outcomes.

If you’re prepared to be surprised, and to learn along with your team, then you’re prepared to lead through change, and I’m prepared to facilitate the process.

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Week 18: Finding the Raven and new heroes

An event I attended at the end of March marked, for me, the beginning of the homestretch of my temporary appointment. It was the raising of a prayer pole and warrior canoe at the Cowichan campus in Duncan, where Megan Joe became my latest hero.

Her grandfather Harold was lead carver on the project: overseeing the pole carving and doing the work alongside a team of carvers on the warrior canoe. They’re very impressive – go see them if you get a chance.

He couldn’t be there for the ceremony, so Megan read his words to the 100 or so people assembled. She was visibly petrified of speaking in public. Shaking and near tears, bolstered by her family and her community, She did it. She stood up there and did it anyway. We patiently waited and listened to Elder Harold’s words spoken through her. She was a brave young woman among all the veterans on that day. I was almost in tears with her.

I wondered if it was simply the age-old fear of public speaking that 90% of the world has, or if there was an added weight on her shoulders to represent her family in place of her grandfather, in front of her whole community. I wanted to go up to her afterwards and tell her what a wonderful job she did, that public speaking gets easier, that it’s good to feel the weight of responsibility, that she’ll grow into it, because she’s got such a strong community behind her.
I was also acutely aware this was one of my last events as a VIU employee, and it made me a little verklempt. I’m a sentimental fool, as anyone close to me knows.

One of the speakers that day explained why the Veterans Prayer pole is Raven. “The shapeshifter – he changes. Warriors must change to go to war. Some of them didn’t change back when they returned.”

April was a blur – the realization that my term here at VIU is ending has spurred a different set of tasks: reports to write, files to hand off, vacations to plan. After my last day here, I’m taking three weeks off, then deciding what direction I want to head next.

I am going to miss this place. I chose to take this job despite the distance from my home and my family, because I knew it would be a tremendous learning opportunity – a chance to shift and change in new and productive ways. I realized that day in Cowichan: I’m always seeking to learn, to grow, to change. I’ll always be touched by new heroes like Megan, and I’ll always be on the lookout for The Raven.

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Weeks 9 and 10: what’s really important

Two Tuesday mornings ago. Raining like crazy, I bailed out of our Tuesday morning walk. Took some time to look realistically at my goals, deadlines, aspirations, and interests, versus the number of hours in a day and my energy levels. And I made some decisions.

May 1 is a deadline for a writing award I want to enter. I am on a couple of volunteer committees. I have a demanding job. I am determined to get back running again and regain most of the former activity level after knee surgery a year ago.

The only way I can get this all accomplished is if I get out my inner laser pointer and focus, focus, focus.

So, two weeks ago I managed to get Chapter One of my novel re-jigged while getting my homework done in prep for the Blue Ribbon panel for judging IABC Gold Quill Award entries. Then, a group of us, all Accredited Business Communicators, met last Saturday to team up and complete the judging process. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a lot of learning.

This past Tuesday: woke up near Whistler in a retreat facility. with a tension headache, but also a thirst for learning. I took the intensive three-day Prosci Change Management Certification course last week in the midst of back problems. This (trying something new, then the back problems) is a natural progression for me.

Change Management–

Communications and marketing is all about persuading people to change their minds about something, and take action. Increasingly, professional communicators are asked to help out with organizational transformations: changes in technology, processes, leadership, etc.

We’re sometimes told: “If we could only communicate this better to staff, they wouldn’t be so resistant. We need you, communications people, to deliver us some results in this area!” My answer to this has always been: “I can’t create change on behalf of leadership unless the leadership is seen to be behind this change 100%. Leadership has to walk the talk.”

Now I have the data and training to back that up. Change management, I had intuitively known, is more than communications. It is a systematic process that has to be supported from the top and reinforced all the way through an organization. Change is supported through communications, but it is done by individuals.

Regarding the back problems – the more stressed I get, the more a hunch up my back and get headaches. I’ve come to learn that doesn’t mean the stress I’m under is bad, it means I’m under some kind of transformation myself. It means I’m learning; it’s a signal I need to pay attention to the change I’m experiencing at that moment. The best way to deal with change (and the stress that comes with it) is to find ways to relax into it, stretch often, keep hydrated, and rest when necessary.

And find a good physiotherapist.

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