Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Embracing Chaos: A Normal Response to Change

In PW&WCBA 2013 this morning, Naomi Karten, author of Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals, Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change, Gaps and How to Close Them and Managing Expectations, had the audience at the edge of their seats as she gave a keynote presentation on Embracing Change: Transforming Ideas and Challenges into Opportunities.

As we all have experienced, the way things are can sometimes get thrown into a jolt which causes chaos and many people affected by this change go through a very bumpy adjustment through the chaos created form the jolt.

Karten explained that jolts can be brief or prolonged, expected or unexpected, planned or unplanned, positive or negative, etc. Jolts like mergers, new manager, project cancellation, new tools, new job, or demanding sponsor can be very familiar jolts in your workplace because they can throw the people involved into a state of chaos.

“Chaos is a normal response to change and therefore is predictable,” added Karten. “People may be absent minded, tired, and have difficulty concentrating when people experience chaos. People may experience stronger emotions in general.”

So, how may they react? Karten said that some people actually love chaos – they thrive on the adrenaline rush and get charged up, while others not so much. Others may resist and refuse to cooperate because they don’t like the uncertainty. But don’t worry, Karten said resisting is normal because it’s the way we naturally react to change

“At home and at work, we are dealing with a lot of chaos all at one time. It’s amazing how good we feel when dealing with chaos,” she explained.

According to Karten, BAs and PMs are the people that throw the jolt into the mix and create chaos - by creating new ideas, giving bad news, introducing new methods, and trying to change people’s minds.  Ultimately, how BAs and PMs communicate with their team can greatly influence the duration and intensity of chaos.

So how do manage chaos? Here are some of Karten’s guidelines you can follow:
  1. Minimize the compounding effect of chaos.
  2. Regularly communicate the status of the change and its impact.
  3. Give people a say about the change.
  4. Recognize the power of listening and empathy as change management tools.
  5. Absolutely, positively do not put down the old way.
  6. Don’t mollycoddle.
  7. Avoid the biggest mistake people make by implementing change.
  8. When you are in chaos, try not to make any irreversible decisions.

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 
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