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May 12, 2011

Management of Change – A Reflection

The management of change simulation has provided me with a lot to think about. It was a process in which I became a lot more aware of the impact of my feelings on situations I am involved with. There were numerous problems throughout the simulation, which have provided plenty of learning points for managing myself and others, through the change process.

Feelings were an interesting aspect of all this. To be honest, I see myself as someone with reasonable emotional intelligence and control over myself (I rarely get angry), and more than able to work with most people in most situations to achieve desirable outcomes. Thus, it came as a surprise to me to experience such strong emotions, ranging from excitement, curiosity and energy, to annoyance, frustration and outright anger, all in such condensed time frames. Of course, these were all functions of the situations we were put through, and the problems we faced during the simulation.

For example, I was originally a bit disappointed to be assigned the position of ‘packer’. For a long time, I failed to grasp that this didn’t need to define me completely, as evidenced by not doing anything if there was no packing to do. It was only after being reminded that I had done this, at the end of the first day, when I began to question why I believed I had such a limited scope. In reality I could have just moved past it, and enacted the change I wanted to see anyway, rather than complaining to no-one in particular about it, when my suggestions had been ignored.

I think my original thought process was affected and reinforced by the clear divide between management and the rest of the team, along with a lack of communication and direction that left me feeling a bit excluded and not empowered to do more. This was a fault of both parties. There was nothing stopping me doing more, but leadership also plays a key role in setting up the environment, and this was a bit closed off to non-management on the first day. I like being part of the process, but being outside the communication loop made this tough, especially in the context of change. Upon moving past this mental barrier, I was much more effective in contributing to the group. However, to an extent, the original barrier remained throughout the rest of the simulation, resulting in me not always recognising that there were very few barriers to the things I wanted to do, and following through on ideas was not nearly as difficult as I seemed to perceive.

I don’t think we as a group had serious aversion to change, but there wasn’t enough driving force or willingness at the higher levels, to see it through. On a number of occasions, I suggested to people that we would benefit from rearranging the stock/packing department (as we didn’t need two packers), or changing personnel from one role to another, as they weren’t suited to it, but these were ignored. Perhaps, it was not so much a case of restraining forces blocking change, but not enough driving forces within the group as a whole to see it through, when good ideas were presented.

I now understand that this was to a degree about wishing to stay inside the comfort zone, and not explore other possibilities that might present a risk or threat. I came to the realisation that in the MOC situation, my reputation counts for nothing, since so few people knew me. Because of that, it seemed like there was greater potential for being scared, embarrassed, etc. That made me freeze a little, and I wasn’t able to act normally. My confidence was killed by one mistake, which I was unable to move past straight away. The comfort zone is about confidence and competence, and I felt like I had neither. Because of the ever-changing situation, it always felt like I was on the cusp of unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence in a lot of respects.

On the second day, I had had time to reflect on my performance, and realised that I needed to be more proactive. I had volunteered to be the Union Representative the day before. Overnight, I realised that this was a legitimate avenue to giving me a voice. I called a Union meeting before lunch, where all the non-management discussed the previous day. This resulted in the management being told that we were not happy, and that if the situation didn’t improve, we would be leaving to start a new company. We gave them time to improve as they had put forward some good ideas, but this could be construed as moving back into the comfort zone!

In terms of myself, I think I have realised my resistance to change is greater than I ever realised before. I never considered myself particularly set in my ways, and am usually happy to adapt to change. But, this is reactive only, and I now recognise I need to be much more proactive about this if I want to be excellent. You always have to be looking for new opportunities and be thinking about how to exploit them, if you want to succeed and be at the forefront of anything. I definitely noticed more blue ocean strategy in my thinking by the end of the simulation.

The experience was good overall, if uncomfortable. Being aware that it is stretching beyond the comfort zone is what facilitates improvement is invaluable. Being able to then recognise the panic situations is important too, as it gives you a chance to step back and think more rationally rather than having cognitive processes compromised by panic. This allows you to step past, resolve the situation, and extend your comfort zone to meet future challenges. I have a poster on my wall with a quote which has a lot more meaning to me now: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space”. I think this summarises my learning from MOC so far, quite well.

November 27, 2010

Changing processes really means changing people.

When using Six Sigma, or any other improvement methodology, it’s so important to remember that whatever you’re trying to change, it involves people. And people, generally, do not like change. This is because, as Graeme pointed out, it feels like they are ‘losing’ something in the process. This is why the failure of so many projects is attributable to people (95% due to socio-emotional factors according to PMI), and their motivation or lack thereof.

As a manager, or leader of change, you have to figure out how to involve people at all levels of an organisation. One way to begin this is to invite them to challenge the process, which is the first step to making them think how they could improve things themselves.

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