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We’re making a change!  Aren’t you excited!

What do you mean, not so much?

zzzzzzzzzz (the painful squeak of air seeping out of the balloon)

But we the management team have been thinking of this for months, mulling it over, tweaking it, being very considerate and thoughtful – thinking of the impact, thinking of the vision.   How do you not see what we see?  We are shocked (and some of us dismayed) that you don’t immediately see the brilliance and all that can come from this new opportunity.  We try so hard to do the right thing and you just don’t support us.  You always hate change.  We’ll never be able to move any initiatives forward.  We give up.

Of course this scenario is a bit extreme, and yet not so much.  There’s two pieces missing to this change initiative effort.  One is obvious, the other isn’t.

The obvious one, and I’ve talked about this before – it’s critical to keep employees “in the know.”  Communicate the steps.  Communicate the thought process.  Communicate the whys and why nots.   Include them in the process – ask them their thoughts, suggestions, ideas.    (Hopefully you already have the open cultural space that values and encourages input and feedback that is honored and considered.)  Let them participate in the planning, allowing them to own and champion the results, the outcomes, the change initiative.

The not so obvious one, the ritual of closure.

Often when we start something new, there is the end of something old.  The loss of something old.  Old, comfortable, clear, steady, known.  In the old, I understand my part, my role and what I’m in charge of.  In the new, it’s all unknown.  I may be attached to that which is old.  I may have helped create it, improve it.  Old has history and memories of “remember when.”

In order for the New to come in, the Old needs closure which includes acknowledgement of past contributions and successes.

Just the other day a friend who used to work for HP told me that a few years ago they had a funeral for a technology they were discontinuing.  They passed around a box where everyone included memories around their work on the technology.  They brought in a mariachi band and served Mexican food.

All the teams and individuals that were connected to this technology were moving on to new areas of work, and new teams.   They needed closure in a couple of ways:

  • acknowledgement of their contribution to this technology – they needed to know that their efforts and energies that went into this technology were not forgotten – overshadowed by whatever “new” technology was coming down the pike.
  • chance to say celebrate their hard work and say goodbye to their daily co-workers –  while they would still see these folks on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be “the same.”

Next time you’re looking to create significant change within your organization ask yourself:

  1. How can I include my employees in the creation/decision making process?
  2. What have we typically done in the past that will be lost in this transition?
  3. How do we want to create a ritual of closure that honors the old and allows our employees to transition to the new?

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2.7 min readLast Updated: April 6th, 2021Published On: December 3rd, 2010Categories: Leadership & Management Development, Organizational Culture ManagementTags:

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