Last Wednesday, I drove to Washington, D.C., in preparation for an all-day training session on Managing Change the following day. The client was a downtown federal agency. Mapquest listed the trip as 5 hours and 45 minutes but at I-270 traffic was at a virtual standstill and it took 7 1/2 hours. I checked into the Hilton Garden Inn, grabbed a nice supper, and headed to bed.
I slept well and was ready to go at 6 a.m. Since I had a couple boxes of manuals and a box of my book, "The Facilitative Leader," I took a taxi seven blocks to the client's site. I arrived at 7:55 and was rudely shuffled out of the main lobby by an excited guard. I couldn't be processed there until 8. The guard directed me to another entrance and I hauled my supplies down a long sidewalk as requested. That location's computer was down and I was redirected back to the original lobby. Finally, my contact was there and I received my credentials and was ushered to my classroom.
Eleven participants arrived and seemed eager to dive into the material. I started by asking people to write down three words that described how they felt when conflict occurred. One group drew a picture of the cartoon character, Charlie Brown, with a half smile, half frown. The other group drew a picture of a fire and a stick figure rushing for the door. Many people fear conflict especially if imposed upon us with little input. We learn this fear early in life and it is often reinforced when we begin our worklife.
Next, we gathered the expectations of the participant for the session. Some of the expectations listed were:
In terms of involving the right people, I suggested they include people who have the relevant decision-making responsibility, those who will be impacted by change, those who have the appropriate information, knowledge, and skills related to the change, those who represent the demographics of the organization, and those who are interested in the topic and have the time to participate. With this type of diversity, most of the potential successful solutions and pitfalls can be identified, addressed, and incorporated.
My response to sustaining change is to ask periodically what is working well with the change implementation and what needs to be changed. You need to give the plan a chance to work but sometimes there are obvious unforeseen flaws that need to be reworked.
We also talked about past successes the participants had experienced. They listed:
We spent the rest of the day going through my Change Model with organizational example of changes they were presently dealing with. I will describe that model next week. Throughout the day the participants were engaged. I was impressed with their grasp of the subject matter and the innovative ideas they shared. Leaders who involve their participants in a dialogue prior to and during significant change often find faster and more comprehensive adoption of the behaviors required by the needed organizational change.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.