Transformational Change - Part 3

A talent acquisition pro was recently grilling me over the phone about my background and capabilities. She didn't know it but I was probably blushing as I "tooted my own horn" about my accomplishments in transformational culture change.

For some reason (maybe it's my destiny, or my reason for being), in my 30+ year-long career, I have often been "where the action is" for an Organization Development practitioner: that is, "in the eye of the storm" of Change.

Mergers. Acquisitions. Takeovers. Re-organizations. Turnarounds. Downsizings. And yes "Culture Changes" too.

I have been there and done that.

So, you may ask, What have I learned? Here are a few lessons from the front-lines of change.

Change is rough - Even when it's the sexy stuff, like leadership development, employee engagement, and culture change, change can be rough. Change always generates stress because it destabilizes things and creates uncertainty. You've got to become a sherpa so that you are skilled at navigating difficult terrain.

"The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines." - Fr. Richard Rohr

You've got to become a light to those who can't see the way.

Stay focused - Things can really start to swirl when you are in the midst of change. Like a typhoon. So to keep your head on, and your wits about you, you must stay focused. Focus can come from many sources. I've found it helpful to stay focused on the W's: Why are we changing? Where are we headed? What will we get when we arrive? A good set of questions gives you the map and compass you need to find your way.

Take care - As an OD professional, your Number One tool is yourself. So you have to stay sharp. Big change projects that go on for long periods of time can grind you down. So you must stay in good shape, physically yes, but also mentally and emotionally. Consider taking up Tai Chi Chih for instance as a way to maintain your balance and your serenity...and your sanity

Stay open - Additionally, you have to proceed through change "with your eyes wide open" so that you can see what is going on...and what may be coming at you. To that end, you have to keep your lines of communication open with the key people that you are engaging with.

Keep learning - Along the way in a change project, all kinds of you-know-what can happen. Setbacks. Shifts in direction. And fiascoes. The key thing when it comes to mistakes and failures in change projects is to learn! Continuous learning. Honest and open discussions around questions like "What happened? Why? What can we learn?" are critical.

I've often said that the most important credential for anyone in the Change Agent business is first-hand personal experience with it. Like being downsized and losing your job. There is no better way to learn about transition and transformation.

For more on this subject, get my book Change for the Better, available in paper and on Kindle.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday November 5, 2013


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