Business guru and thought-leader, Peter Drucker said, “Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm” (p. 73).
Drucker’s words are true especially with the advent of the Internet. Even though it is widely accepted that technology is at the forefront of businesses today, and changes occur frequently, some people still have not accepted that change is the norm. Accepting change can be difficult for some as it disturbs the comfort of the status quo. Moving from the known to the unknown can be stressful. For example, many baby boomers still balance their physical checkbooks. I just heard a millennial say, “what’s a checkbook”?
Managing change requires a mindset that allows you to be positive and open-minded, instead of resistant. Look at it like this, we all will experience change at some point in our lives, whether personal or professional, and we will all deal with it in different ways. Marriage, divorce, new job, job loss, birth of a child, death of a loved one, are all events that will garner change in our lives. But, how do we manage the change? Some people don’t do as well as others to manage change, primarily because they do not anticipate change, even though they know that certain events fundamentally causes change.
In business, change is inevitable. The business world is filled with mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies and downsizing, and new technologies; all which causes change in the organization. My life has been defined by tremendous change, and I did not always handle change well. However, I have learned to never be satisfied with the status quo, to always strive for more, and move with the change.
Here are two examples of how I managed change. The first example is when I worked for a Fortune 100 company and had just earned my MBA. I was not looking to leave the company since I had been there for 10 years. However, I wanted to use my new skillset there because I really enjoyed working for the company. But, when I went to leadership in search for a position to utilize my new skillset and add value to the organization, there was nothing for me.
Some people are complacent and fear change and would probably just stay there until something eventually comes along. However, that is not what I did. I did not fear change and was able to secure a position with another organization who valued my new MBA degree. Fear of change can prevent some people from growing professionally. Don’t let that be you.
In Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book “Who Moved My Cheese?”, he provides four easily-relatable characters to help you view your own reactions to change in terms of one of the characters and evaluate the actions and long-term consequences. I found this to be a great tool to discover how to deal with change so that I can enjoy less stress and more success in my work and life. The moral of the story is that the best way to manage change, instead of resisting, is to move with the change.
The second example is when another company I worked for went through a reorganization. We all know what that means – downsizing. Being laid-off of your job is devastating, whether you are prepared or not. It is emotionally draining and stressful. To reduce the stress, I learned that it is important to be as prepared as possible such as having a significant savings to help bridge living expenses until you find a new job, having a current resume ready, and rigorously pursuing other employment. I had a significant savings and I immediately started my job search. As I went through this process, I realized I never wanted to experience this again and that is when I focused on my strengths and decided to be my own boss. I became a sole proprietor and started a consulting company. This allowed me to have autonomy to navigate my own destiny, hence the name of my company “Navigate Your Destiny”.
Don’t resist change, move with the change.
Drucker, P. (1999). Management challenges for the 21st century. New York: HarperCollins.
Johnson, S. (2002). Who moved my cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life. New York: Putnam.
Dr. Theresa Poussaint
Adjunct Faculty VIU, School of Business