Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Change Is Difficult

At work, whenever we start hearing that "change is difficult," I know we are cooked. Perhaps we just do it more in human services, where everyone is into process, involving all the stakeholders, and being an agent of change. Yet I suspect this phenomenon is not unknown to the rest of you.

It's an evasion. Those who are insisting on the change do this to take the focus off whether this is a good idea or not. If people aren't happy or it doesn't work, it is because change is difficult, not because it was a pumpkinheaded decision. The problem is no longer the change itself, but the people who have to do the changing. It sounds so understanding and sympathetic to take those po' folk into account, and all the frustration they experience because Change Is Difficult.

This is always accompanied by a series of meetings beforehand getting "input," moving on to discussions of "coping" with change, and after instituted, followup with everyone to see how the change is "affecting" them. Through all this charade, no one ever says "is this a good change or a bad change?"

I don't mind the change, it's the charade that bothers me. If the new boss is determined that everyone is going to stop making their calls left-handed and will now make them right-handed, fine. Stupid, but the least of my worries. Changing what I do - I'm sorry, dealing with the change - will take a few minutes. Having to repeatedly meet to discuss it over months not only wastes my time, it annoys me.

We had a survey sent out in April '09 asking how we thought process x should be changed. Among the suggestions were A, A1, and A2. People suggested B and C. People suggested no change at all. Significant problems with all the A solutions were noted. In September, we started having meetings about changing the process, and didn't everyone think some version of A was a good idea? All the budget brouhaha put a hold on it, but here we are again, with work groups being formed in March to decide what the change would be, first meetings in April to "brainstorm" ideas, then suggestions today that the eventual solution was going to look something like A.

Please. I don't mind not getting to make the decision. I mind being patronised by being told that my opinion matters when it doesn't.


Simon Kenton said...

I just went through something like this with the fire department. Because we have to pass an annual fitness test, we had an agreement with a gym, called A. A second gym, which turned out to be poorly appointed and cheap, was available. Would we all please go and evaluate the two alternatives, and get back to him with feedback?

The feedback was, "Let's stick with A." It came out, slowly, that B had been prechosen. There never had been any real intent to stay with A. (I went and negotiated an agreement with the purveyor of A, and about half of us stuck with them, at our own expense.) The general reaction was, "God! We're all familiar with budget-driven decisions. ALL of us. If the department doesn't have the money, just say we don't and that's why you are choosing B. But no more of these bogus requests for input which waste our time and make you appear a liar and an over-rider."

Simon Kenton said...

When I think back on our situation, the irritation comes less from the decision being premade. No, it was that we were supposed to feel grateful for being consulted. We were supposed to think the pre-decision-maker was a good manager who was concerned about our morale. Not just the throat-cram decision, but the codependent need to be cherished as the good guy after he faked interest in our input with no intention ever of using it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Exactly. A good extension of my thought, Simon. I have a new post on government budgets coming up that will tie in with this.