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Managing Change: Knowing, Understanding, Empathizing
your job, or do you really
your job? One difficult part of change is getting people to see the
Of course, this is seriously delicate stuff - you can't just walk in and
ask people if they understand what they are doing. You know you'd be
insulted if someone asked you the same question. (Come on ... not just a
little?) But think about it - how often have you had this conversation
" ... I look at the TPS
Report every morning, and I look for something that is negative in this
column. If the layout of the report changes, I can't do my job; you are
gonna have to relayout this new version of the Report."
In other words ... I don't understand my job, I don't think on the job -
I just respond to the stuff I am used to looking for.
The great unstated truth is that most folks don't understand what they
do. They didn't implement it, they inherited it. They know the
, but not the
. Plus, human nature makes us avoid admitting our own ignorance.
As a result, resistance to change means resisting anything that upsets
the As-Is. Unfortunately, the As-Is has a stealthy way of changing in
little bits over time; that, and the fact that the folks who originated
this particular process have probably moved on, taking their
understanding with them. And so starts the slow, steady spiral to
complete irrelevance, and slavish adherence to non-value adding work.
Empathy Helps Overcome Entropy
To make change happen in these environments, it helps to have - and
demonstrate - empathy for how people feel and think, to lower the
resistance and open the minds.
Show your self-knowledge, and humility, by freely admitting when your
understanding falls short. As a team member - speak up! in public! when
you don't understand the underlying process. As a manager - encourage
folks to raise their hands and ask for help. And please - make it easy
for me to seek help off-line, after the meeting ends, so I don't have to
demonstrate my ignorance in public.
Realize, however, that there is a significant requirement to Get Things
Done; we don't have time to stop and deconstruct everything. There is a
significant business value in having a repeatable, lean process, and all
of this 'search for understanding' is wasting daylight. Balance the
importance of understanding with the need to get stuff done, by
designing, documenting, and implementing lean processes with incremental
improvements, that can drive results on day one, but can also mature and
improve over time.
Set the expectation that Understanding the Job is just as important as
Getting It Done - but don't forget that we are getting paid by our
Results, not our Understanding.