Change Management According to Granny

by Jennifer Miller on October 22, 2010

in Business Management

Dissatisfaction is Part of the Deal for Change Agents

While working out at the gym the other day, I indulged in bit of TV nostalgia and watched the Beverly Hillbillies.  This particular episode had Jed and Granny discussing how to deliver some disappointing news to Jethro. “Now, don’t worry Granny,” Jed said reassuringly, “I’ll go easy on him. There’s more ‘n one way to skin* a cat you know.” Ever the skeptic, Granny replied, “Yeah, but there ain’t no ways that the cat’s gonna like.”  First, I chuckled at the joke.  Then, I found myself thinking about the wisdom behind the humor.  

Throughout my career, I’ve participated in countless organizational changes: downsizing, corporate change initiatives, reorganizations, technology roll outs, benefit plan changes. (Haven’t we all?)  On some occasions, I’ve been involved in executing those changes as an HR generalist, supervisor or project manager. On others, I’ve been on the receiving end of the change.

This is what I’ve noticed: no matter how much input is gathered, no matter how many different ways the message is communicated and even if the change is desperately needed, those not directly involved with initiating the change are not likely to be overly thrilled with it at first.

Granny’s humorous quip serves as an excellent reminder for change agents: our work life sometimes requires us to do things that others will perceive as unpleasant, even painful. Of course, those in charge of driving change (the “shavers”, as it were) should do everything in their power to ready the “shave-ees” for the impending change.  By the same token, the change initiators must reconcile with the fact that they’ll most likely get the equivalent of scratches and hisses from the recently “shorn”.

What are some ways that you’ve helped ease the “razor burn” of a new change that you are implementing?

*Out of respect for the cats that have lived in our household, I prefer the slightly more humane “more than one way to shave a cat”.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Gutek October 25, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Some one once said, “I don’t mind change, I just don’t like the way it disrupts MY life.” That about sums it up. The tried and true method, if possible, is to have the recipients of change take part in formulating the change. I know…. that’s in a perfect world and now that I’m retired, that’s where I live.

There’s also the method “Coach” on Cheers used to use…. he would always tell people the worst possible news and then tell them the truth, which, of course, sounded really quite good compared to the “worst possible news.” An example of how this would work: You’d tell your employees that they would all be losing dental coverge — then tell them, no actually, dental coverage is just going to change a bit. Change doesn’t seem so bad then!

Jennifer V. Miller October 26, 2010 at 6:42 am

Sarah,

Thanks for stopping by The People Equation. It’s a thrill to see one of my former work team leaders (and long time mentors!) chime in on my blog.

Your observation about reactions to change is spot-on– it’s the disruption the change causes in peoples’ life that is unappealing, not necessarily the actual change. And, thanks to “Coach”, you’ve provided a clever way to help tee up the change and provide perspective on its severity or lack thereof.

Jennifer October 31, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Ezekiel,

Having worked with Sarah, I can assure you that she didn’t employ this method in the exact way listed above. I think she was referring to the humorous aspect of “Coach’s” methodology. As I recall, that TV character used to paint a very bleak picture when talking with patrons of the Cheers bar, all as a way to help them realize their lives weren’t as bad as the picture he was painting.

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