Dealing with change is a popular topic in business. It’s the subject of many business books. Change in the business world parallels change in the gospel in many ways. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about repentance, the ultimate in personal change. Change in the business world focuses on how we as individuals and organizations react to external forces that disrupt the status quo. Technology industries are always changing. Advancements come at a dizzying pace and they impact how we deliver services to our customers. Changes, whether they are organizational or technological, are received in a variety of ways.
Recently we underwent organizational changes that would change the way we support our customers. For years, our support professionals specialized along departmental lines. We began the process of centralizing our support technicians and cross-training them. This had the potential to be perceived as a negative change in the eyes of both our support teams and their customers. From our perspective, it was aligning us with the industry and would allow us to use the resources we have more efficiently.
As part of the process for announcing this change, we used concepts from a great little book called Our Iceberg is Melting (John Kotter et al.). It’s a short read, perhaps an hour or so. The fable approach to this book makes it entertaining and helps drive the concepts home. The story is about a group of penguins that find their lives turned upside-down by the discovery that their iceberg is melting and disaster is imminent. As they worked together, the penguins demonstrated four steps to approaching an impending change.
- Set the Stage
- Decide What to Do
- Make it Happen
- Make it Stick
In setting the stage, the penguin leadership council helped the others see what was happening and the resulting need for a change in their lives. They also identified those individuals who would provide the leadership needed to effect the change. Throughout the story, the reader gets to know different members of the flock, their personalities and their attitude toward the change. You begin to see the visionary leadership and old experience of Lewis as well as the naysayer attitude of NoNo; the no-nonsense drive of Alice and the love that everyone has for Buddy.
As we planned for our own melting iceberg, we started referring to each other by the names of the penguins we most resembled. This was helpful in identifying the best person on our leadership team to handle particular tasks.
Decide What to Do
Once the appropriate stakeholders were in place, they identified their vision and the strategy they would undertake.
As a leadership team, we included in this process early on those individuals that had key roles in our new organization. We also consulted someone outside of the organization who had gone through a similar transition before.
Make it Happen
There are several things that have to happen to actually bring the change to pass. These include:
- Communicate – communicating constantly about what the changes
- Empower Others – empowering others to act in bringing about the changes
- Short-term Wins – take opportunities for little morale boosting victories
- Don’t Let Up – be persistent and don’t give in when roadblocks come up
Make it Stick
The final step is to make sure that once the change has occurred that nothing comes along to undermine it. Some short-term failures may occur as new processes are ironed out, but if the changes have been integrated into the mindset and culture of the flock, they will not allow problems to pull their eyes from the overall vision.
As we tackled this change in our organization, we used these four principles as a map to implementing it. As part of making it a part of our new culture, we gave the book to each of our employees and took opportunities to remind them of the vision. The penguin became our logo, our ensign. Take an hour to read the book. Then, the next time change comes your way… ask yourself, “Do you have the vision? Or are you a NoNo?