October 8, 2012

Managing Change

I figure the joys of managing change land somewhere between trying to hold onto a block of Jello and being thigh-high in quicksand.

I’m in the midst of leading a project – an annual event for our diocese that has been carried out in similar ways for, well, ever. The bishop asked me to take over and to look at the event with fresh eyes. With new leadership, we figured this was a good time to implement some changes.

As you might imagine, we’ve encountered some pushback, internally from other staff and from diocesan participants.

I have learned a few things about how we managed (and are managing) the changes. I should have done a better job identifying all the stakeholders – and sought input from more of them. I thought more about how the internal process of change would need to be carried out than I did about how the changes would impact users. 

We also had a whole cadre of volunteers. I thought the changes would make their lives easier. But because I didn’t explain my thinking from the onset, they initially felt alienated, like they weren’t needed or valued. 

In the past few weeks, I have been meeting with different groups, talking through some of the changes, making tweaks based on their suggestions and helping explain the rationale for the new processes. Once folks understood and felt like they were included, they were much more willing to be part of the solution. 

A no-brainer, right? It’s just that when you’re in the midst of implementing change, it’s easier to hunker down and push ahead. After all there are a lot of things that need to get done. 

This experience has been a good reminder to give the process of change as much attention as the end result. 

Next up: Using context to measure the effectiveness of change (or how not to give up at the first sign of trouble)