Change can be good

Monday, May 24, 2010

Q. A lot of stress comes from change. Any ideas for dealing with change?

A. First, understand that change is normal, but it's not natural. It will never be "back to normal" but rather "forward to normal." We create our new normal. Change is relative. Resilience is determined in part by how much change you've been accustomed to in the past.

Now, how should you manage change? First, let me suggest a resource: "Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard," by Chip and Dan Heath. The book features lots of cases and research that are understandable and practical and can be applied today.

Second, if you want to manage change, manage communication. Make sure you talk about change, not the fear of it, but the reality of it. Let your group know you're going to make it fine. More important is communication from the bottom. A lot of resources talk about the leader of an organization as the change agent, the one who drives change. However, there is a different perspective. Read the following excerpt from a May 1999 interview featured in "Fast Company" with Peter Senge, an MIT professor who specializes in organizational learning:

In case after case, the most compelling lesson we learned was that if you want real, significant, sustainable change, you need talented, committed local line leaders. Find the people who are at the heart of the value-generating process-who design, produce, and sell products; who provide services; who talk to customers. Those value-generating activities are the province of the line manager, and if the line manager is not innovating, then innovation is not going to occur.

I have never seen a successful organizational-learning program rolled out from the top. Not a single one. Conversely, every change process that I've seen that was sustained and that spread has started small.

My challenge to you is this: How good of a job are you doing at making certain your folks can communicate ideas and challenges? hme

Dr. Gary Schwantz is a speaker, writer and consultant. Reach him at