Edition Eighteen

Change, Choice and Cheese

In order to move any organization forward or to get it out of a rut, you have to deal with change.

The first key to understanding change is to determine "if you chose change or if change chose you."

If you choose the change, the road will still be bumpy, but your attitude will be positive.

But if change chooses you, then you have to grieve the loss before you can have a positive attitude. When we are forced to change, we have to adjust, adapt, or align to the new reality and that is the part of change that is so difficult.

If at all possible, try to give co-workers some choice in the matter. It gives them a sense of dignity and ownership in the process of making change. This does not mean that they make the fundamental strategic change, but that they are then involved in the process of how it is carried out

I have been consulting/training on change with an international firm involved in the medical products field. They have been through a major acquisition, a reorganization to integrate the newly acquired group, and now a remodeling. They have occupied the third floor and part of the fourth floor in a strategically located office building. Upper management signed a new ten-year lease, the management company agreed to update the outside appearance of the building, and the decision was made to totally remodel both the third and fourth floors. This added amenities such as break rooms, conference rooms, and training rooms that would be a bonus for everyone. But to do this, everyone had to be relocated and this meant some had to move offsite for six months.

In a wise move, upper management brought all the managers together, told them the plusses and minuses, and let them choose how to shuffle their departments within the existing building and offsite location. It took several meetings, but they chose how to do it, wrote out the timeline, and upper management accepted it.

Will there be grumbling? Of course. But at least only the decisions to upgrade and remodel were made for them. They then chose/negotiated how to deal with the interim implications.

Who Moved My Cheese?* is about forced change. When someone moves your "cheese" (what is important to you), they usually don't give you choices. And they don't always allow you to grieve the loss. The power of the book (and keynotes and workshops) is the four characters and how they react.

Sniff smells change (nose), but doesn't always do anything about it. Scurry (feet) rushes into change, but often without a plan. Hem (folded arms) is a conscientious worker but doesn't like change at all. And Haw (mouth) is critically startled by change, but eventually follows Sniff and Scurry in the maze and leaves handwriting (lessons) on the wall. To move an organization forward, one needs to understand what kind of change is coming, try to involve others with choices, and "read" people so you know how to coach the Sniffs, Scurrys, Hems, or Haws.

By Gary Copeland