A couple years ago I took a change management class. I headed to the north woods of Oregon, steps from a Pacific Coast Trail entry point, with ten people, from ten different big and small, famous and obscure businesses to learn how to make change less painful. The deep breathing woods outside helped us expand, the tendency to become fast friends with a group of strangers working with a common purpose happened, and a couple really good instructors helped us learn. I spend a lot of time on change now.
Change Management is a hot topic in the business world because we have actually figured out that you have to have a system for dealing with people’s emotions and reactions when you take a business through some kind of transformation. It is hard to learn and super hard to teach and difficult to implement. It takes a lot of practice. And we don’t do it all that well yet in my office and sometimes it makes all of us feel really uncomfortable. But each time we talk about it and plan for it, we understand it better and things go a little bit more smoothly. And most importantly we have all realized that it is a worthwhile endeavor.
The challenge is that as dedicated and tactical and really thoughtful we try to manage change, there is still a huge gap that we can’t address and that ends up taking a lot of our emotional time. Change is personal. Some people roll with new things, others dig in their heels and resist and some are a combo of both and that makes it really hard to have a one size fits all plan. To add on to that, as we implement a strategic way to manage change in our office we have also recognized that this process depends a lot on how we manage change ourselves. It gets really complicated and it is no surprise that change has been shoved to the back room of the HR office for decades.
Change is unavoidable and inevitable. We are always moving and morphing and things happen that are not at all in our control, in work and life. And sometimes it really sucks. We learn routine early, bedtimes, eating times, school bells, time for work and play-we have this skeleton built around us that organizes us and tries to make our lives easier. And beside our skeleton, our brains are also programmed to like the status quo. We have ideas about how things should work, beliefs of what we think is best and what we want. And when the skeleton sways or quakes or our brain status quo is challenged it can be disruptive, anxiety inducing, lash provoking, and super emotional and not just for that person, everyone around them too.
So lately the thing I am trying to figure out is not so much how to manage the change process, I am trying to learn to deal differently with those skeletal sways and quakes and the brain status quo so that the changes don’t become enormous, debilitating things. Trying to figure out how to be a little more pliable and trying to figure out how to bite off smaller chunks of change, more frequently so that they don’t get all built up, resulting in fiery eruptions. This heady, squishy stuff seems very personal and intimate and outside the normal work scope, a place we normally don’t go. But maybe anticipating and confronting some change or movement, all the time, at work and outside would make change a little less monumental. Maybe knowing change is always coming would prepare us somehow for when it shows up.