Saturday 14 May 2011

On Resiliency

This is the first post in what I hope will become a series on Change Management. Wikipedia defines Change Management as "a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state." In this series, I hope to examine and reflect upon those factors that help us survive change well, without becoming too disfunctional in the process.

I first became interested in Change Management when I was working for SQLSoft+, a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner for Learning Solutions.  (They've since been acquired by QuickStart ). Microsoft was rolling out something called Microsoft Readiness Framework, a tool for assessing an organization's readiness to implement Microsoft solutions. Although MRF never really took off like its sister, Microsoft Solutions Framework (which in turn has become an Agile-based, scrum methodology), I found the MRF training valuable. The training was conducted by Linda Hoopes, who now heads Resilience Alliance in Atlanta, GA, and was based on the work of Daryl Conner, author of Managing at the Speed of Change, and the founder of Conner Partners, Inc.
When I was writing for TechRepublic, I wrote a Change Management Primer based on an interview with Mr. Conner.

I really like Linda's list of seven Resilience Characteristics: traits that people with a high degree of personal resilience seem to have.
  1. Positive: The World - Resilient individuals effectively identify opportunities in turbulent environments.
  2. Positive: Yourself  - Resilient individuals have the personal confidence to believe they can succeed in the face of uncertainty.
  3. Focused - Resilient individuals have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and use this as a guide when they become disoriented.
  4. Flexible: Thoughts - Resilient individuals generate a wide range of ideas and approaches for responding to change.
  5. Flexible: Social - Resilient individuals draw readily on others’ resources for assistance and support during change.
  6. Organized - Resilient individuals effectively develop and apply systems, processes, and structures when dealing with change.
  7. Proactive - Resilient individuals initiate action in the face of uncertainty, taking calculated risks rather than seeking the comfort of the status quo.

In the training we learned that when the amount of change a person is faced with exceeds their their capacity to change, they become dysfunctional in various ways: actively resisting the change, passively resisting the change (sabotaging), freezing up (procrastinating), or seeking a return to the old status quo. This slows adoption of the change and also creates stress within the individual.

Sometimes, an organization doesn't understand the cumulative effects of change. Different parts of the organization propose a number of initiatives, each one reasonable in itself. But the targets of the initiatives -- those being asked to change -- experience the combination as beyond their ability to absorb.

Change Management is a process of consciously addressing the impact of change upon people, both individually, and as a group (teams and organization-wide). It is a vital, but often ignored, companion to Project Management.