Pains of Change

As we wind this blog down to its final postings I thought it best to provide a somewhat cautionary blog post about not going too big too soon. Change in the workplace can be very good but too much too soon is going to cause a big problem. The problems associated with change fall into two main categories: too much change and not enough.

Innovation and change drive big business leads to breakthroughs and can lead to high profits and high spirits. But you can’t do it all at once. Think about the financial news section and reading about two big companies merging. That kind of undertaking is monumental and the stress involved can be too if you try to do it too fast or with too little resources. Consider this simple equation for keeping change in a positive place and not a state of panic.

The challenge of X, whether X is a merger or some other major shake-up in the business, must generally equal your available resources Y.

So if we use the merger of two distribution companies as our example, what are some problems they might face? If the company uses two different systems to track inventory then the systems need to be unified. This is but one problem. Since both are functioning companies that mean the employees of both are busy maintaining the business already being conducted. This creates a problem with the amount of time being dedicated to the merger and a restriction on the resource of people. Change associated problems like these lead to panic and chaos.

On the other end of the spectrum is when a company is too complacent and they aren’t changing with the pace of the market. Countless companies have nearly become obsolete and gone bankrupt because of their refusal to innovate.

Staying in the Zone

Kriegel and Brandt describe the above scene as the “panic zone.” This is when the equation we discussed is skewed towards the side of the challenge. To balance the equation we need to adjust resources or adjust the challenge. Since the challenge is unlikely to change in this situation then adjusting resources is key. To solve this you could cut the number of individuals working on the merger down but increase the amount of time they work on merger business. This increases both time and relative manpower for this project putting the project back in the so-called “Change-driving zone”

Beyond creative solutions to complex problems, there are preventative measures for staying in the “zone.” For instance, you can assign project workloads differentially based on who has just come off of a hard project and who hasn’t had one recently. Additionally, you can use the equation to assess what “zone” you’re in with a certain project and compare it to how your employees feel about the project. Lastly and probably the most enjoyable is to schedule time for your employees to unwind. Socials and open bars and other events that help your employees decompress pre-panic zone can help avoid it altogether.

In closing, change is good but only if accomplished at the right pace, with a proper balance of resources to challenge and change-driving employees.

One thought on “Caution: The trappings of change

  1. We have been experiencing the pains of change at the institution of higher education where I am employed. Change doesn’t always sneak up on you and slap you behind the head. The growing problems stare you in the face and are often ignored until it’s too late to stop the bleed and the company is on life support. Stay on straight oxygen too long can damage organs. Non-performing departments have been eliminated, there have been several rounds of employee riffs. We have received infusions of financial support which were pursued to get off life support, but the breathing isn’t the same. The air has changed because people waited to late to change. It has become a forced embrace. Moral is low. I love your statement the change of X must generally equal your available resources. So much change is need that resources are quickly depleted without substantial change. But we continue on…until change truly takes root and we can be fruitful and multiply or student enrollment again.


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