Last Saturday was a wake-up call that fall is here. With morning temps under 50, it was fleece time. It was also the first home football game for the University of Michigan under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Blue and maize was everywhere I went in Ann Arbor. Our new coach and football team delivered a resounding victory in the first home game to everyone’s delight. But this isn’t about football or fleece, it’s about adapting to change — something we are expected to do often.
Yes, I donned a fleece when I ran errands and walked the dogs, but I didn’t fully adapt — I still wore my sandals. I will only make that adaptation when I have to. I figure I can hold out for a few more weeks at least.
Season changes are to be expected and there’s no use fighting them. For us Northerners, yes, that means cold and snow as well in another few months. But there are many changes that we can’t anticipate, even some that seem to smack us upside the head. There are changes we choose, often after much thought and deliberation. And there are the ones we don’t choose or have no control over. But we eventually learn to embrace or at least live with them.
In our work lives there are always new processes and tools to learn and adjust to. With major IT projects, we typically have a change management component to ensure everyone understands how the changes impact their work. This leads to increased adoption. Formal change management programs help people who are impacted go through a series of stages from early awareness of the change that’s coming, to deep understanding, to buy-in and ownership.
Change can be hard for people to accept. As leaders rolling out changes, we must keep in mind what Peter Senge says, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” Sometimes there are too many concurrent changes and we expect too much of people. That’s when, as leaders, we have to look critically at how much change we’re rolling out at any one time and the pace of it.
Of course, we are adults and eventually figure out how to accept change. Though there may be times when you might want to do what small children do. Rather than use your words, you might just want to cry out and throw yourself on the floor with some dramatic flair. Can you tell I was with my two-year-old granddaughter recently and witnessed at least one of those dramatic moments?
I’ve written on various examples of change in the past year including our EHR implementation, culture change in our IT department, our lean journey, and our current Value and Margin Improvement (VMI) efforts. I haven’t noticed anyone throwing themselves on the floor with great drama, though there may have been a few emails that represent the adult version of such resistance.
I’m an impatient person who wants to drive things forward and fix problems. I’m also someone who can recoil at the thought of changing something that I’m used to. But I recognize that people need time to adjust to changes. As leaders, we can’t just say, ‘don’t resist the change’ or ‘you have no choice, just get over it.’ As leaders, we have to ensure that appropriate change management is in place for any significant changes. I will keep that in mind as we move forward with our VMI and lean efforts.