This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

November 17, 2004 - change management

The beautiful thing about ignorance is that everything is so simple.

You can spin out love advice to people you've just met. You can consult for somebody else's company, and whip up a detailed long range plan after just a couple of meetings.

Why? Because you don't have time to know ... all the little things.

Sometimes that means you actually do give good advice. You aren't distracted by things that may seem pressing, but really aren't important. That lets you see to the heart of an issue.

Of course, when it comes to your own life or business, things just aren't that obvious.

Why not? Well, it could be that those unimportant but pressing things have confused you, clouded your vision. You have no objectivity.

More likely, though, it's as as H. L. Mencken once said: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." Some problems are complex.

I've been reflecting on this since giving a presentation back at my home town library, a town I haven't lived in for over 30 years. The topic was "change management."

Obviously, I'm not up to speed on everything that's gone on at that library since 3 decades ago. But I did an honest and thorough job of research about the topic before my talk.

Here's the main insight of the experts: the greatest single resistance to organizational change is the resistance of staff. I even ran across a pseudo-mathematical formula: D x V x F > R. It means that Dissatisfaction (with the way things are) times a Vision (of something different) times First steps (to get people moving) is greater than Resistance.

Why do people resist change? Most frequently, because they haven't been consulted or informed. They want to know why. They want to know when and how. They want to know who is supposed to do what.

So many people fear change. That falls into distinct categories, too: they fear a loss of status or power, they fear some other loss in the pattern of their relationships with other people, they fear that the cost of change (learning new things, having to work with new tools or co-workers) is greater than the benefit. They don't want to feel foolish or incompetent. No one does.

What can managers do to make change easier? The experts say:

* communicate. This is key. Start by asking what your staff thinks should change. Understand and be able to articulate why change is necessary, and where the organization needs to go. Don't tell people how. Let them figure it out, and thereby take ownership of change.

* encourage staff to take risks. Change happens when people try something new!

* minimize the risk of failure. But everything new doesn't work. If people are punished for taking risks, then everybody gets cautious. Don't say, "You failed!" Say, "THAT was interesting! What did you learn?"

* seek changes compatible with the past in important ways. That might mean gradual changes in procedure or techniques. But more important is to stay focused on core institutional values.

* seek buy-in not only within an organization, but around it.

* recognize success. When things work out well, celebrate.

It all seems so ... simple.

Or as I asked my colleagues in Illinois, "Remember the good old days, when nothing changed?"

Me neither.

No comments:

Post a Comment