MANAGING CHANGE IN THE WORKPLACE.
Write your own story
By Ruth Tearle
The story of change.
Managing change is like writing a story. The change leader or team acts as the author influencing the story's characters, and determining the plot and ending.
Managing a change in the workplace is like writing a story. In any organizational change, there are a number of characters who are thrust into a situation. Things happen to them, and they in turn respond. Their actions, and their intentions, create consequences not only for themselves, but for all the characters in the organisational story.
The story takes place in the workplace where the change leader or team are the authors of the change story.
They have to determine:
- The characters.
- A situation and an opening scene.
- How things happen.
- Why things happen.
- How they, as authors, influence the story.
In the context of his/her workplace, when managing a change, the author of the change can choose the characters he/she wants as part of the change team. This could include employees, middle managers, a change or project team, and executives. However often additional characters emerge, unannounced, during the story. Each character’s past experiences and their personalities will influence how they react to the change situation the author places them into.
The situation and an opening scene.
Let’s look at a situation that requires a change. There is a recession. Sales are down. The company is losing money. Unless some drastic changes occur, the company will be forced to close down. The company has decided to ‘restructure’. Or perhaps, the company has decided to invest in a new IT system – one which will help it to provide better service to its customers. Whatever the context, someone needs to manage a change in the work place. A workplace filled with characters.
How our characters choose to respond to the situation and to one another in the opening scene of the change story, will determine whether the change story will be one of high drama, or a stress free achievement.
Let’s imagine this opening scene. A large auditorium. On stage is our heroine. Angelique, a 24 year old MBA graduate in a skin tight black dress. She has been with the company for two years. Her aim is to prove herself to her boss. An impatient man – head of operations or project management. He doesn’t believe in the ‘warm fuzzy people stuff.’ He wants to get the job done, and done fast!
“With our new system, everyone will be more productive. And the customer will receive better service.” She says as she concludes her presentation.
A old woman seated at the back of the room hoists herself out of the chair. The heroine feels her shoulders stiffening. “Oh no. Not Marion again.” She thinks. “She always resists change. Why does she always have to be the difficult one?”
Marion meanwhile is thinking. “They’ve been trying to get rid of me for years. If this system goes through, they’ll have the excuse they need. They know I can’t use computers, I’m too old to learn. And my husband, I only buried him last year. They know I need this job. I won’t let myself depend on the kids to survive. No, there is no way I’m going to let a girl who has only been with the company for a few years, kick me out.”
How things happen and why things happen.
Will Angelique understand Marion’s fears, and reassure her that she is important and valued. Or will she get defensive and try to bully Marion into accepting the change?
Angelique’s reaction to Marion’s outburst will set in motion a chain of events – which could lead to high drama, tragedy or co-operation and harmony.
You, as the author can decide.
The author’s intention.
Before you decide, you should be aware of how your own intentions as an author will affect your plot. Do you want to be known as a writer of horror stories – or inspirational ones?
Either way, you will need to understand why people resist change.
And then you need to make an active choice as to how you intend to respond to their resistance. This becomes your change management strategy.
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