I love to read and implement business models that deal with managing change in an organization. In my undergraduate studies at the University of Houston, I minored in Organizational Psychology where I discovered how workplace events trigger varying responses among employees. As a Training and Development Specialist at Linea Solutions, I help our clients adapt to change brought on by growth, increased customer expectations, outdated technology, and the evolving business and legislative environment. I have shared my passion with others while presenting courses on Managing Change, where we collectively explored the various change models and discussed pros and cons of each. One model that resonated with me on a personal level was the Rogers’Adoption Diffusion Theory that categorizes five different types of adopters: Innovators; Early Adopters; Early Majority; Late Majority; and Laggards (Figure 1). All change leaders know that adoption is a process, but many change management initiatives fail to take human nature into account.
I introduced the Rogers’ model to students, and we discussed various people we had worked with during our careers who had been laggards and late majority thinkers and how challenging it was to get them engaged during change initiatives. We outlined strategies and action plans for those team members who struggled during change. Leading this course always left me feeling energized and able to cope with both personal and business challenges.
I had recently been widowed, and my husband’s passing had created major changes in my life. For example, it was no longer easy to leave home and teach classes for days at a time, or even overnight, without considerable planning to care for my house pets and horses. Due to these travel restrictions, I shifted my role from training to marketing. I remained proactive, resourceful and an early adopter whenever possible, welcoming change when it happened.
Then one day, change happened, and another opportunity presented itself. My employer was bought out by another technology firm. As the new company owners gave an introductory presentation, I mentally pinned on my early adopter badge. At the presentation’s conclusion, I introduced myself to one of the new owners, expressed my interest in being a part of this change, and asked if I could participate in any transition team activities.
This enthusiasm did not seem to have the impact I expected. I received an unexpected phone call from the owner’s executive assistant requesting that I box up all my marketing materials, display booths, and new marketing collateral and ship everything to the company’s external marketing agency who would be handling all marketing activities from that point forward.
What? An external agency? What was I going to do? Would I be laid off? My early adopter badge fell off and was trampled under my anxiety.
By the time I arrived home from work, I was feeling defeated. I fed my animals and retreated to the sofa. I covered myself from head to toe with a quilt and wallowed. My personal change management model would have been drawn as a mud pit with no exit ramp.
But then, I remembered my resolve and resourcefulness to be an early adopter. How could I apply it to this situation? Reviewing my knowledge of change management, I remembered the maxim to identify and address pain points. I recollected that the owner had expressed his unhappiness when this external marketing agency took days to respond to his requests and that their changes did not always meet his vision. What if I put together a binder with all the current marketing materials separated by line of business, my event calendar and budget, and an explanation of the contents?
The next day I returned to work re-energized. I printed and sorted all my marketing materials into a comprehensive binder. After the binder was complete, I wrote a letter of introduction and description for each section. Within 24 hours of my meltdown, I was tracking the binder’s contents across the country via FedEx’s overnight delivery. I addressed the package to the owner’s executive assistant. When I saw that she had received it, I called and walked her through the binder. As I had hoped, she gave it to the company owner directly.
Within hours of our conversation, my phone rang again. This call was from the owner expressing his pleasure at receiving the binder and how much he appreciated reading about each line of business. I suggested that if we kept the marketing in-house, he would always be my priority rather than a client waiting in a queue. We ended the call with his promise to further consider our conversation. The next day I received notice that our marketing materials would all be handled internally, and that the marketing agency had been informed that they should send all their previously prepared collateral to me.
Under this management team, the following months and years were both challenging and fulfilling. As a new widow, I had been so overcome with fear for losing my job and my home that I was initially paralyzed. I still love to read about managing change in the workplace, but I learned an important lesson about when change happens to you. You can’t avoid change, but you can live a life of resilience. You can embrace transition and see challenges as opportunities to thrive.
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