My changed view of change (part 1)

change managementI have always been someone who is comfortable with change. Generally, while others are protesting and digging their heels in (and I’m talking about work here), I’m the one rolling with the punches and just getting on with. I believe it’s a hangover from my dysfunctional childhood, where every time my mother married and divorced (and there were a number of marriages and divorces) my siblings and I had to move. Along with my mother, of course. The point is: I couldn’t fight it and there was no point trying, so acceptance of change became my default position. I have maintained this position – quite successfully, I might add – throughout my adult life.

Until recently.

But before I get to that, let me tell you something about my working* life. Change has always been a part of the way I’ve worked. I would take temp jobs and contracts and be happy with the fact that there was a degree of uncertainty in how long I would be working in one particular spot. I enjoyed moving around, meeting new people, learning new skills. My c.v. is not so much a representation of my career as a collection of opportunities. I moved where things looked interesting and I could try them out, because I could. I had great faith in my ability to settle in quickly and hit the ground running. I enjoyed the challenge of relying on my ability to adapt and learn. Being comfortable in a job was my idea of uncomfortable.

It has only been as I have gotten older (and maybe bought into the idea that it’s more difficult for older people to find work) that I have settled into being permanently employed. I am now a permanent public servant, although I had the idea that I will move around in government working on different projects. I’ll be a permanently transient worker. Or something like that.

But back to recent events.

Regular readers will know that I have been struggling with my work situation of late. I have been through two restructures (apparently government departments do this all the time), a new manager who has decided (in his wisdom) that my additional duties allowance is no longer necessary because there is “no business need” (despite me now looking after an extra couple of hundred people, with different learning and development requirements).

As mentioned, my default position is to embrace change and look for the opportunities. I tried to be helpful to my new manager. I really did. I gave him a “who’s who in the zoo” overview of our division, shared my knowledge of how it all works and comes together, and offered him my ideas for much needed strategic direction. I met with him once a week on a formal basis and was also available to answer questions and provide insight on an informal basis. I was trying to show him that I was a valuable team player, and that he needed me to help him successfully transition into our division.

Except he couldn’t care less. He had his own agenda which, quite frankly, didn’t include me. He was not the slightest bit interested in what I brought to the table. I was an inconvenient inheritance. No more, no less.

So, a month or so ago, I dug my heels in. And made myself prickly and unmanageable. I – the person who usually embraced change – became inflexible and unreasonable and difficult. After teaching change management and understanding implications at a theoretical level, I was now living it. I had become the inflexible person that dogged successful change management programs. And made them fail.

And I can tell you exactly what went wrong and what could have been done a whole lot better. And this will be the subject of my next post, because there are lessons in my experience for all.

* Home is different. I own my unit (with the bank), and have lived there for more than 15 years.

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