Wednesday, September 11, 2013

For Pete’s Sake…Consider the Impact of Change on Others

Keynote Naomi Karten (Author of Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change) opened her discussion on “Embracing Change…” by warning “There is a prerequisite for this session – It is only for people who have experienced change.”  She then advised anyone who has not experienced change to stay after the session, so she could “introduce them to someone who has experienced change.”  This witty way of emphasizing that change happens to everyone went over well with the audience and made for a smooth transition into the real life example of someone who had experienced an interesting change – a gentleman Karten met by the name of Pete (or Project Pete as Karten called him).

Karten met Project Pete at a previous conference.  She told how Project Pete went to work one day and was told to “pack up” his area.  He (and the rest of his team) was being moved to another office in 24 hours.  Karten described how this unexpected “jolt” to Pete’s normal way of life threw him into chaos.  She went on to reference Project Pete throughout the discussion, in order to tie how we experience change back to a real life scenario.  

One point Karten emphasized is that session participants (as project managers and business analysts) are often responsible for introducing “jolts” into the lives of others – the same types of “jolts” that Pete experienced.  BAs and PMs cause jolts by carrying out expected tasks like offering ideas, introducing options, and trying to influence others.  Since BAs and PMS are “possible sources of chaos”, Karten stressed the importance of understanding how chaos is caused and how people respond to it.   

Understanding that successful BAs and PMs cannot completely avoid introducing change (jolts), Karten shared some guidelines on how to best handle such situations.  A few of those guidelines are listed below.

·       Minimize the compounding effects of chaos:  If you know someone is still dealing with the effects of another change, consider adjusting the timing of the change you are preparing to introduce.

·       Regularly communicate the status of the change and its impact:  Communicating the status of change builds trust.  However, be careful that you don’t overdo it – Don’t communicate so much that you become a larger source of stress than the change itself.

·       Give people a say about the change:  In many cases you will not be able to eliminate the change altogether.  However, if you have areas where you can give them some say on how to carry out the change – do so.

·       Recognize the power of listening and empathy as change management tools:  Sometimes having someone to just listen makes it a little easier for those involved to handle change.   

·      Absolutely, positively, do not put down the old way:  Putting down the old way of doing something may offend those involved, because people often find a sense of security in the old way. 

·      Don’t Mollycoddle: Don’t spoil, overprotect, cosset, humor, pander, overindulge, or baby those who have to endure the change. Listening and empathy are important (as noted above), but don’t overdo it.

·      Don’t forget that there is chaos involved with change:  Change is naturally messy.  Understand that those involved with change are experiencing some degree of chaos. Accordingly, they may not respond to things in a logical or rational way for a period of time.

·      Build trust:  Before introducing change for others, build trust. 

Karten also touched on how participants personally should handle change.  She emphasized that when going through a change personally, it is important to recognize when you are in a state of chaos, as well as be able to resist the urge to make decisions that have permanent results.

Overall, session participants seemed to take away the importance of considering the impact of change on those going through it (others like Pete - as well as themselves).

Belinda Henderson, CBAP, PSM
Senior Consultant and Business Analysis Blogger, Cardinal Solutions Group
Guest Blogger, 2013 Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts

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