The #SAChat conversation about managing change prompted me to reflect a bit on what I’ve learned about change management over the course of my career. Now that I’ve learned more about the art and science of change management, both through reading and through experience, I realize that experience with leading change is as variable as the people involved.
My “final thought” tweet during this conversation shared my concern that we jump to labeling ourselves and each other depending on what we believe comfort with change may or may not be. One thing we quickly forget is that all change is not created equal.
When I share the phrase “change-averse,” do you think of anyone in your organization? That person who you thought of might have acted a certain way during your last attempt at leading change. Maybe you thought “oh, Person X was just constantly shooting down every idea that was posed. Person X doesn’t like change.”
Now, consider the same person. If Person X was presented with the idea that “our campus wants to make a change in this program that would result in you gaining more experience, having less stress in their work day and increasing their salary.” Easy, right? Person X is suddenly “change-able.”
Now instead think of the most supportive colleague you have on campus. Person Y typically loves your ideas and you seem to be closely aligned on many important issues you face in your work. If Person Y was presented with the idea that “our campus wants to make a change in this program that would result in you gaining fewer opportunities, having more stress in your work life and will prevent you from a raise anytime soon.” All of a sudden, your previously supportive colleague may not support THIS change. Do they turn in their “change-able” label now?
A brief study of critical theory taught me that for every story in the master narrative, there is a counter story. Before we start labeling each other as either “change-averse” or “change-able,” remember that the counter story of how a certain change may affect Person X can only be told by that person. You may not know the full story involved with their perception of what is happening, their trust or mistrust in those leading.
If you’re destined to lead change, resist the urge to label and instead pursue the need to listen. Once we learn the counter story to a story of change, we can make informed decisions that will lead change and inspire progress for our campuses and our students.