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to Change Tires on a Fast-Moving Car!
By Tom Dennis – President, Effective
in an organization undergoing rapid changes. New changes seem to be
quickly coming at you every day. You try to understand the changes so
that you can more effectively participate and help to achieve the
desired goals, but while you recognize that rapid change is taking place
and that you want to help, the goals of the changes are not well
understood, and some of the changes may even seem to be contradictory.
You’re confused and you suspect you’re not alone. You talk to your
friends and acquaintances and realize that they don’t really understand
the changes or the goals of the changes either, or different people
believe the goals are different (see
Does Everyone Really Understand?). The changes are coming
so fast that it’s becoming disorienting (see
The Sky Is Falling!).
like trying to change tires on a fast-moving car, which
isn’t even possible, and what’s worse, it isn’t even clear which tires
need to be changed! You start to realize that if something isn’t done
quickly to clarify the situation, one or more of the tires on this
“fast moving car” will likely suffer a catastrophic blowout!
We all know that about the only constant in business, and in life, is
change. Things are always changing, sometimes for the good, sometimes
for the bad, but seldom standing still. Sometimes change seems to be
way too slow and organizations can become or appear to become stagnant.
In such cases there is often a need to stir things up and foment more
rapid change. Sometimes change occurs at a reasonable rate where most
of those involved understand, accept, and even embrace the changes, and
everyone seems to be fully on board. Sometimes, however, change comes
too rapidly, with not enough time or warning for everyone to keep up or
get on board with. Unless rapid change is very well planned (see
Plan Based On What You Do Know, and On What You Don’t!), the
probability of success in such times can become vanishingly small, and
many organizations’ attempts to plan for rapid change often go badly
So what can you do to be most effective in times of rapid change? To
some extent it may depend on the kinds of change being enacted.
There are good changes that will make things better for you, your
coworkers, all organizations within the company, and the company as a
whole. These are changes you can fully embrace and make your own. In
such situations, even when the changes are coming at a breakneck pace,
do all in your power to help get these changes in place and fully
operational. This may well be a time for all hands on deck, working
long hours or even around the clock. Ask what you can best do to help,
and jump in with both feet, helping others as well along the way. The
fast pace of the changes may be essential in making these changes
successful, and working with many others as a well motivated team may
become a thrill ride that you’ll remember for a lifetime (see
Pigasus – When Pigs Fly!).
There are bad changes that may make things worse for you, your
coworkers, and many others in the company. These could be downsizings
(or other euphemisms for layoffs) that could affect you and/or many
people you know. These could be structural changes that will move
responsibilities to other organizations or other locations or even to
other companies (e.g. mergers or acquisitions). Still, they may be best
for the company, even if this is hard to see at the time (see
Bad Breath Is Better Than No Breath At All!). Again, the
pace of changes in such instances may be very fast, of necessity in many
cases. Even if you are one of those adversely affected, it is still
likely in your interest to do what you can to help. Your actions may
help many of your friends to retain their jobs, even if not yours.
Plus, digging in when times are tough can be a measure of a person that
can pay off in ways that may not be foreseen at the time (see
Serendipity Can Change Your Life!).
There are changes you can embrace. Such changes make sense to you and
you can get behind, support, explain, and defend them. These are
changes similar to the “good” changes above, but perhaps on a smaller
scale. As with the “good” changes, embrace them, encourage others to do
so as well, and jump in with both feet to make them happen.
There are changes you can accept. You may not be happy about such
changes, may not fully agree with them, but you can at least understand
and agree with the rationale behind them. Where such changes can be
adjusted to make them more acceptable, you should try to do so with
those advocating such changes to make them more palatable to most people
in the organization. In any event, with these changes you should do
what you can to help implement and make them successful.
There are inconsequential changes that you don’t see as worth making,
but at the same time you don’t see these as worth arguing about. It is
fine to point out your concerns to those proposing the changes, and to
show the positives and negatives and your view of whether the positives
will outweigh the negatives, but it is likely not worth investing too
much time and effort fighting such changes.
Then there are changes you simply cannot accept. In your mind, these
changes make no sense at all and will do damage to people, groups,
organizations, and the company. You disagree completely with these
proposed changes and the rationale behind them. In such cases, you need
to go to those behind the changes and make your case to try to overturn
or at least modify or ameliorate the changes. Let them know what you’re
willing to do to help implement them and what you’re not. Let them know
what you will actively campaign against. Recognize that you could come
out on the losing end of such arguments, and be prepared to suffer the
consequences of your position. Make sure this is a battle you firmly
believe in having.
In all such considerations, I recommend keeping the
“Serenity Prayer” in mind,
which goes, “God, grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
Change – slow, medium, or fast – will be ever-present
within everyone’s life. Some will be easy. Some will be very hard.
How we handle such change is what will set us apart from others.
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Effective Engineering Consulting Services, All Rights Reserved