Discussion forum for members of the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group

Monday, March 26, 2007

Human Change within Organizational Change


So I win a book which is about change and I’m expected to write a blog about change. I haven’t read the book yet!!

I am a teacher – I was a Manufacturing Manager; I was a Human Resource Manager. I am a father – I was a husband. I am an American – I was British. I am self-employed – I was on several corporate payrolls. Lots of “am’s” and “was’s” so I guess that I don’t need to read the book, I have experienced change throughout my life. As I reflect on the changes, I know that the changes that I have put in place have not been tough. When I first came to America, it was an adjustment, some disorientation but an excitement about the possibilities – newly married; in love. Change was easy – I even managed to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road. New home, new job, new car, new children, new friends and a new life – I embraced it. I would think to myself – change is not so bad, you just have to go with it. I would talk to the people that worked for me and tell them that “change has to be a constant”, I would encourage them to embrace it and had difficulty understanding why it was so tough for people.

I would teach my students about change - talk about Lewin’s Forces Field Analysis for Change; I would talk about strategies within organizations to put change into place. Kotter was able to support the discussion with his Change Model – Urgency; a Guiding Coalition; Vision and Strategy; Communication of the Vision; Empowering Broad-based action; Generating Short Term wins; Consolidating Gains; Anchoring new approaches in the culture (“Why Transformation Efforts Fail” Harvard Business Review (March-April, 1995). I would show the Stages of Change as defined by Bridges in Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes in 1980: Endings; The Neutral Zone; The New Beginning. We would discuss change – how we feel; why it is so important; how to lead it and how to manage it. Oh…how easy it is to discuss it. If we take these models and implement them, we can create change in our organizations. We have the code. It looks so easy when it is on the screen in front of the classroom. Yes… Yes… create a culture of change – continuous improvement, agility, adaptability, as long as you can make the case it will move forward and people in the organization would move towards the new vision.

How different it is when you are going through your own personal change. You are divorced; you have moved out of your house and the community that you have been living in for the past 23 years, you have a new home – an apartment, no back yard, people upstairs and people downstairs. It is an ending and you are starting all over again. You have new furniture, new everything and a lot of anger. You have gone past the denial stage – you have moved, you can’t deny it anymore. You sit in your apartment and you feel sorry for yourself – you get into the victim mentality- “poor me”. You recognize that you have resilience; you must move through it; this is what you’ve been teaching for the past few years; change; yes - it is happening and you need to manage it; you must strategize; you need to stop feeling pathetic; you must get your work done and you must create the world that you want to live in. Thus it goes on – some days you feel strong; some days your anger overwhelms any logical thoughts; some days you want to contact your friends, make sure that you are continuing the relationships that you have had for many years and some days you don’t want to talk to anybody.

For me this was a whole new journey. I felt fortunate that I had been teaching change but realized that the information and discussions had come from an academic perspective. In the classroom, we discuss the model, we throw out scenarios of change, we talk about this organization, that organization and as much as we talk about the obstacles, the concerns that employees have, the need for communication and the need for clarity of vision and action. I found teaching change while going through it was not as easy as it used to be. Each day would affect my energy, excitement, preparedness, and desire to interact fully with the classroom. One day, one of my students, Sue Tobin, took over the class for me. She was a coach and truly a remarkable person. Sadly, she passed away suddenly and it is a great loss to the world. It was a great class with exercises, activities and leadership concepts. There was a lot of learning for every participant.

To a certain extent, Bridges kept me going. Endings, Neutral Zone, New Beginnings. I knew that there would be new beginnings and realized, in a more logical moment, that it would only happen if I took all my learnings and internalized them. I had to take the knowledge and turn it into a skill then turn it into a behavior. I had to strategize, I had to look into the experiences and my capabilities and use them in order that I could move forward. It is so easy to know this stuff but not use it. So I started reading Bridges again and started use the wisdom that he offered as my guide and advisor. To quote Bridges, “Endings are, let’s remember, experiences of dying. They are ordeals, and sometimes they challenge so basically our sense of who we are that we believe that they will be the end of us. This is where an understanding of endings and familiarity with the old passage rituals can be helpful.”(Bridges, 1980, pp 109-110). This is true. Yes – I wasn’t the first person to go through change, I wasn’t the first person to get divorced, I wasn’t the first person to experience these feelings. Disengagement; Disidentification; Disenchantment: Disorientation (Bridges, 1980) – yes…I have experienced it all.

It is the Neutral Zone, which is the most lonely and powerful place to be. At first, you travel backwards and forward between the Neutral Zone and Endings. The anger gets in the way but once I started recognizing the steps that I had to take it became easier.
1. Find a regular time and place to be alone.
a. Easy, I live alone. I go to the gym every morning.
2. Begin a log of neutral zone experiences.
a. Bridges suggests, “...we need to resist the tendency to imagine that what is needed is external to our situation.”
3. Take this pause in the action of your life to write an autobiography.
a. I had to start looking at my past – traveling, moving to America, continuing education, managing, leading, teaching and much more. Many different experiences, some of which I had not thought about for a very long time.
4. Take this opportunity to discover what you really want.
a. I know that I want to want to make a difference in the world that I live. I know that I want to be able to afford it. I know that I want the competencies that will allow me to enroll people in living their own future. I know that that I want to do it because if I can’t do it –how can I support other people do it.
5. Think about what would be unlived in your life if it ended today.
a. Traveling; the people that I haven’t been able to support; the book that I haven’t written; the unknown possibilities around the corner that I haven’t yet been around.
6. Take a few days to go on your own version of a passage journey.

Bridges talks about the neutral zone as a ”…time for inner reorientation. It is the phase of the transition process that the modern world pays least attention to. Treating ourselves like appliances that can be unplugged and plugged in again at will or cars that stop and start with the twist of the key, we have forgotten the importance of fallow time and winter and rests in music. We have abandoned a whole system of dealing with the neutral zone through ritual, and have tried to deal with personal change as though it was some kind of readjustment.” (p. 130) I continue to work on it.

I work toward the New Beginning – some days I’m there and some days I’m not there. It is a step by step process and I discover new information and knowledge every day. Today, I am excited about going into the classroom – no knots in the stomach; no disorientation; no wishing for the class to end and a confidence about who I am and the life that I lead.

Now I look at the transition that I am traveling through, I am beginning to understand more fully the human aspect within organizational change. I have returned to reading Darryl Conner’s Managing at the Speed of Change (Villard, 1992). I am thinking more about the human side of change in organizations. I am wondering if he stresses enough the need for leaders to understand change – not just the model, but the human aspect. How receptive are managers to employee concerns? How much do managers understand the emotional aspects of change? How do managers lead their groups through transition? There are many questions that I have around change and I hope that for those of you have read this can educate me and add more knowledge.
I continue the journey.
[Hugh was the winner of our March 2007 program giveaway, The Change Handbook.]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How can case studies be used in our work?

At our March 13 “Learning From Experience” program meeting, we had two presentations on“Case Studies for Your Edutainment”.

In the first, Anne Litwin, with the aid of the “ODLG Players,” showed us an actual case illustrating the importance for both externals and internals of the entry and contracting phase of client-consultant collaboration.

In second, Harvy Simkovits led us through some “mini-cases” and showed us how these can be constructed from our experiences.

As with our June 2005 “Case Studies” program, those attending found it to be entertaining and rewarding evening, in the Learning Group tradition of experiential learning and “learning as fun”.

We’ve chosen as our Question of the Month the general question of how the case study method can be used in OD practice. If members are interested, we could also do case study learning via this or a specially dedicated blog or even via a new special interest group.