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January 18, 2004
Change Management
Change is in the news-- I suppose it's always been in the news, it's just getting a lot of local press this week with the USAirways drama. They're the biggest employer in my county, real estate prices have been flat till the denoument, and last week the CEO quoted Darwin: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

In today's paper we have a career employee encouraging his peers to let go and be rational. But if you read the Beaver County Times article about the new corporate policy curtailing employee's speaking to the media, you have to wonder if the article isn't a corporate plant.

In the current Baseline magazine a CIO talks about managing change and says: There's the third of the people who you need and they're open to the change. Then you work on the third of the people who aren't strong supporters but aren't detractors either. Then there's the other third, who aren't ever going to change, and they'd be happier elsewhere. Eventually, they end up elsewhere.

In general, once the economy's on a theme, or once a business picks a steady theme, life is good- which means stable, predictable, no surprises. But it's the transitions between themes that horrify. Change is scary and people don't like change.

What I do know from managing technical projects is: Every change has winners and losers, and the people who are affected by your change can sometimes put your project down the tubes if they want to. So you have to ask, "Who loses in my project?" and try to accommodate them into your change.

It's the great paradox of modern life: change is happening faster and faster and people don't like change. People resist change. People grieve over change, generally with good cause. I read an article where a successful HR practitioner said, "They're complaining that we're not rewarding long-term loyal employees. We don't want loyal employees anymore."

There's no indication that it's a cultural weakness; in fact, compared to some European systems, we may be more open to change than they are. But how do we improve our change capability? How do we educate for change-friendliness? Should we? How do you keep a stable society in a tempo of increasing change?


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