Who is impacted by change?

By: babette09

May 30 2010

Category: Uncategorized

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… And…What are their characteristics and how do we use our understanding of them to best implement change?

I am not sure which type of change we’re talking about, so I’ll just wing it, going by the book Drive by Daniel Pink. In it he discusses how businesses can change for the better by listening to employees’ real needs, and motivating them with a different set of rewards than most companies are used to handing out for a job well done. So let’s say a company decides to change the company work structure, as described in one section of the book. Instead of clocking in and out every day in a building and giving eight hours to get results in their project timelines, employees are given a chance to work in a different fashion. They’re allowed to work their own hours, their own way, at home if they’d like or in an office setting if they prefer.  The hours they work really don’t matter. What matters is that they accomplish what they should be doing each week.

People react differently to changes in their given levels of autonomy. The impact of this change to someone who wasn’t expecting it can differ drastically. For a majority of people the change will be positive, even if it was at first a shock and perceived negatively. Once they’re used to the idea that it’s a positive idea that will benefit their lifestyles they’ll usually settle in well and excel in their job roles. A few cannot get used to the switch, and may leave to find a more traditional position. Their learned behaviors get the best of them, and they return to the traditional manner of work.

I keep thinking of the movie ‘Dead Man’, where Johnny Depp’s character goes to a small town in Oregon and tries to get a job as an accountant in a factory there. The image you see in this week’s post is of Robert Mitchum as the factory owner, who doesn’t remember hiring him. As a result, he lowers a gun on Depp when he steps into Mitchum’s office.  I tried to find an image of the actual office, which was a dismal row of desks headed up by a team leader whose job is to ensure everyone is working the entire time they’re in the office. I couldn’t find one, unfortunately, so this shot is metaphorically close.  ;- )

This type of setup has been institutionalized into companies all over the world. It has only been in the last 20 years or so that this situation has changed. I have been lucky enough to be part of this revolutionary but oh-so-necessary change in  work styles. I have worked remotely for most of the last 15 years. Having this autonomy to complete my work relieves me of so many draining burdens that so many people still endure: having to sit through rush-hour traffic each day, dressing up for work, not being in the comfort of their own homes surrounded by pets and not being able to eat a lunch of their own choosing, whenever they decide to do so.  I start each day by either going to the gym before work or watering plants in the back yard with my dog, and maybe taking him for a walk before I begin. I would never have time to do any of this if I had to slog through Chicago’s horrendous traffic (second only to Los Angeles in severity and time spent on the road). In addition I’m happier knowing I work for people who trust my judgment of time to get my projects done in my own time.

This doesn’t mean I’m as autonomous as the people in Pink’s book. I have to work a normal day, more or less, and be available to people on a loose 9-to-5 schedule. But if I need to run off and get a quick task done during the day, I can tack time on to the end of the day, or the next day, to make up for it. It’s not ideal, but it’s closer than I could get elsewhere. As Pink alludes to, I have turned down jobs that paid more because they did not offer this level of autonomy. It’s worth it to me to find the more exclusive projects that allow for humane treatment.  ;- )

So who is impacted by change in my situation? Of course I am, but I’ve already described the positive ways in which I interpret this change. My employers, who change several times a year, are also impacted positively. They don’t have to worry about me coming into their building and taking up space, parking lot space and their time as they try to manage other projects like mine. In addition we can all be happy knowing the environment is constructively impacted. The environment gets a break since I’m not driving anywhere to meet an unrealistic time schedule that benefits no one.

I can help myself implement the change by knowing my own shortcomings and meeting them head-on to avoid disaster. I take notes each day so that I have goals to meet, aside from my project goals. This helps a great deal, as I might otherwise screw around too much and not accomplish what I need to do.

I help my project managers by keeping them informed of my progress, and letting them know if I hit any roadblocks, such as not being able to communicate with my subject matter experts (with whom I work in most projects). They’re aware that I am making headway, relieving them of the burden of having to hunt me down or keep track of my due dates. Knowing the personality traits of my project managers (Type I or X, for instance) can also be beneficial. If I have a skittish Type X, I can deliver news in a different way than if I have a mild-mannered Type I as a project manager. Knowing personalities  is just as important as knowing due dates and other expected goals.

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