Coping with change through sophomoric behavior
Posted by Ken Klaus on August 15, 2008
Over the past several weeks my organization has undergone some changes as development plans were refined and priorities reassessed. As a result the project I’ve been managing was delayed in order to redeploy resources to assist other teams with their assignments. Even though we have come to accept and even expect changes like these, when I broke the news to my team they were understandably disappointed.
Coincidentally, my organization is also in the midst of our annual performance review cycle and one of the core competencies on which we are evaluated is our adaptability to change. Honestly, just saying this phrase makes me want to stick my finger into the nearest pencil sharpener and give the crank a good turn or two; fortunately my desire to remain employed proved greater than the urge to mangle a digit. So I dutifully completed my evaluation and even managed to avoid giving into cynicism. Let’s just call it an act of sincere, if cowardly, professionalism. Thus, in an effort to redeem this act of cowardice, I offer these more candid, if less refined, thoughts on managing change.
Coping with change is best handled like a Chinese fire drill. Stick with me. If you haven’t had the pleasure of participating in this modest prank, there are essentially three steps: 1) stop the car, 2) run around the car (The number of times the occupants must circumnavigate the vehicle is a matter of some debate. Personally, I think each occupant must complete at least three revolutions around the vehicle, lest those who witness the maneuver fail to recognize the beauty and complexity of the drill.), 3) reseat yourself. Implementing these steps in this exact order is critical. Trying to complete the second or even the third step, before the car has come to a complete stop is not recommended.
Coping with change requires us to follow much the same process. First, we have to stop what we’re doing. Often this first step can be sudden and unexpected, much like the aforementioned drill; but it is a necessary prerequisite to the rest of the process. Next we must get out of our seats and move in a new direction, which may include running around in circles a few times until we know for sure where we need to be. The key to this step is to ensure everyone is moving in the same direction, so if in doubt, follow the driver. The final step is finding a new seat. Often this can be the hardest step, as it may require giving up the driver’s seat and occupying the passenger seat or perhaps even the backseat for a while. If this happens, don’t get discouraged. Instead accept your new position as an opportunity to gain a fresh perspective and broaden your experience. On the other hand, if you suddently find yourself in the driver’s seat remember to buckle-up and enjoy the ride. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your fellow passengers for help, because trying to manage everything by yourself is the shortest route to burnout, and perhaps even career limiting accident.
As a rule change is good, though it is rarely ever easy. Learning to accept change as an opportunity and not just a cause for disappointment can help to ease the distress and frustration you feel when projects, organizations, and even cars come to a sudden or unexpected stop. What’s more, the experience may also prove useful during your next performance evaluation or job interview when asked to assess your adaptability to change – unless of course there’s a pencil sharpener handy.
I’m kidding! Kids, please do not attempt this, or any other car related prank, at home!