How do you respond to change?

My first post is about change as this seems to be the case all around us. Whether we look closely, we are seeing change and it is having impact on our lives. The world events around us, the family members in our own households and the climate are but a few examples of changes taking place right in front of us. How do we respond, or how should we respond becomes a matter of debate, one fact is certain: change is all around us.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes change simply as:

  • to become different
  • to make (someone or something) different
  • to become something else

That’s simple, you might say. But change is not that simple and managing it is even more difficult. Whether we realize it or not, we go through changes all the time; sometimes the change is small and other times it may be unbearable. I am not saying anything new here, of course. What I would like to talk about is how we manage the change. What do we do to manage it properly and how do we take advantage of it, if at all. As is the case with anything in life, we must find ways to manage the changes around us, whether at the office or in personal life.

When I was attending a course on business processes, I heard from the instructor that change happens from the top. I had understood that earlier so it was not new but it made me realize again how important it is that when we want to effect change, we must do it with some authority. That is what it means that change happens from the top. This is specially true in the context of business. When we want to change the way a company is running, someone must champion this activity and the champion must be the top person in charge.

One day last week I was  able to observe the power of change first hand. We were at our company retreat and there were activities there focused on change and how to manage them. We all participated in a role playing game where we were split into four teams and each team was manufacturing items for customers. Each team was divided into departments, from back office to designers to preparers to front office to representatives. I was chosen as one of the management consultants and assigned to a team to observe it and report back on how it was carrying out its business. There were two rounds in total.

In the first round, the team behaved miserably and for the most part failed to work as one unit. The “departments” did not know to communicate with each other, did not know what was happening in other departments and when asked how they were progressing, the response was muted. The orders sent to the customers were mostly rejected. When the exercise was over in the allotted time, we regrouped to discover how well we had done. Needless to say, when I reported back on my team, the review was not flattering. The sales figures also did not lie.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. – Lau Tzu

Following the review, the team was allowed to make whatever changes it deemed necessary to improve performance in round 2. This was the time the team came into action and really became creative and devised ways to perform optimally. It realized how the back office was not in communication with other departments and other departments were not in communications with the front office. The team devised ways to bring efficiency and improve processing for fulfilling orders. It found that it could manufacture the normal orders in one assembly line and have another line for special orders.

It worked! In round 2 the team became more efficient and productive. There was communication and each department understood the other. The customer relationship improved and many more orders were accepted than rejected.

All because of change. A positive change. Of course the teams were given the power to effect the change and they adjusted and accepted that change was required, and they managed the process. This change brought about positive results. I think it is safe to say that when given the chance, people will respond positively. There must be incentives, however, and there must be lessons learned.

How do we respond to change determines the outcome. It is our desire to change and to see change that propels us into action. Without change, we stay the same.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you.

The sessions were facilitated by Turnaround, a company based here in the UAE.

5 replies
  1. Pierre
    Pierre says:

    Change that’s a good topic. Personally, I see the other dimension: some people love change, some people naturally avoid it. I am in the first category.

    From change, opportunities emerge, from change interaction is created. Change is the motor of all life in fact.

    Is saying that will change anything about the concern that some may have of change? No. Is there a fear related to change: of course, but this fear is a thrill for some. The change management exercise wasn t that much focused on the change in organization (even if changes in process were required of course) but rather on the required adaptation to a changing environment. Without adaptation to a changing environment, suitability or profitability is impossible. Think about the very professional whip manufacturers in 1900!

    Without change it is a collapse.

    • Tameez Ansari
      Tameez Ansari says:

      Hi Pierre. Thank you for your reply. It’s the dynamic I am after. You’re right that adapting to change is the real winner and those who can adjust fare better than those who cannot.


  2. Michael
    Michael says:

    Great article, Tameez. I think it is interesting to see how change can be inspired by failure. But a great real life example, thanks for your insight!

    • Tameez Ansari
      Tameez Ansari says:

      Thank you, Michael. Our generation is, perhaps, going through the greatest change. Within our lifetimes, we have come a long way from only one channel on TV to mobile media. There is more to come.


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