Change My Zodiac Sign? I Don’t Think So!

Astrology fans who follow the stars were not amused at the articles this week noting that the Zodiac charts were off by a month (see the follow up story to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s original piece). Much drama ensued as believers used the internet to express their anger at changes to their star-driven horoscopes.

Believers have a great deal invested in the Zodiac. The guidance their daily horoscope offers provides them comfort. Couples often have their signs analyzed to learn how compatible their chosen mate is to them. And exactly what are Zodiac-sign-tattooed believers to do if they now fall under the new 13th sign, that of Ophiuchus?

The good news for Westerners is that their Zodiac chart has actually NOT changed. CNN states in their article that “astrology experts say the shift in zodiac signs does not apply to most Westerners, who follow the tropical zodiac, which is fixed to the seasons. The Star-Tribune article referred to the sidereal zodiac, which is fixed to constellations and is followed more in the East.”

Organizational leaders can learn a great deal from this episode. These reactions to the shifting Zodiac are exactly how staff react when a change is announced in their organizations!

Common Reactions to Change

Senior leaders typically expect to see this sequence: 1) announce the change, and everyone will 2) implement the change. Change NEVER works out that way.

People go through predictable stages of reactions to change. Blanchard’s research-based program, Leading People Through Change, provides insights into their concerns. These stages are individual (individual players will go through each stage at different speeds) and sequential – players will not move to the next stage of concern until their needs have been met at the previous stage. We examine the first three phases in this post.

  1. The first phase is information concerns – people want to know what exactly the change is, why is it needed, how much change at how fast a pace, etc. Once information concerns have been addressed, players will move to . . .
  2. The second phase: personal concerns – people want to know how the change will play out for them, what’s in it for them, what will I give up, what will I gain over time, etc. When personal concerns have been addressed – and these concerns can widely vary across a workforce – players will move to . . .
  3. The third phase: implementation concerns – people are able to focus on how the change will be put into action, what the plan is, how will people be held accountable, what resources will be available, etc.

Savvy change leaders know that these initial stages of concern must be thoroughly addressed for the desired change to take hold.

How to Help Staff Embrace Change

There are four basic ordered steps in a change leader’s action plan to help staff embrace a needed change:

  1. Educate – Describe the change fully – or as fully as you can at this stage. Share the business case for the change – what in the business environment is driving this change? What are the costs – time, dollars, customers, opportunity – of not making this change?
  2. Involve – Offer numerous opportunities for staff to examine the change, to suggest how to make the change more efficient, etc. Build buy-in with these conversations.
  3. Embed – Create systemic support for the new behaviors; the change will not endure without systems refinements. With staff involvement, modify delivery systems, performance systems, etc.
  4. Refine – Over time, continue staff involvement to tweak the change (and supporting systems) to enhance the benefits of the new approach(es).

What is your experience with staff embracing or resisting change? Join in the conversation!

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  • Sarah

    Your description of change from management perspective confirms my view of the problems with management-driven change.

    Let me give a view ‘from the ground’ based on my experience as one of the disregarded peons.

    1. Management – or specifically, a manager, perceives a need for a sweeping new initiative in order to have something large and, preferably, quantifiable for his or her resume.

    2. After due consideration of the prerogatives and turfs of other managers said ‘change artist’ determines that a crucial part of the company’s business- travel arrangements for meetings- a) represents very large dollar expenditures and b) is not under very tight control by any other manager of importance.

    3. Without consulting any of the employees actually involved in a day-to-day travel arrangements, ‘change artist’ begins interviewing travel companies with a view to finding one to replace the current agency which the manager guesses is charging ‘too much’. Our brilliant leader easily succeeds in this task because he (or she) actually has no clue what jobs the current agency actually performs, not having bothered to talk to any of the people who work with it.

    4. The manager calls a meeting of department heads to announce the change. Since the department heads also have very little idea how the day-to-day practice of the travel arrangements works they accept this reasonably well, though some of them, having had at least some contact with those in charge of this work, feel some foreboding.

    5. The department heads announce the change, assuring the workers, as they have been assured, that the new agency will perform all the functions of the old one, at less cost. The assistants ask for details and are given information on flight booking. They ask how the new agency will handle hotel blocks- and the department heads respond, “Huh?” – at which point it begins to dawn on everyone that disaster is looming.

    6. After a mad scramble on the part of the assistants to rearrange procedures the new system- (and not before several people arrive late at night to find no hotel has been booked for them)- the peons gradually manage to get things under control again, although since hotel blocks are no longer negotiated by a single agency on behalf of this large company hotels quickly realize that they do not need to be as accommodating. They are less willing to offer discounts and the assistants find it harder to find hotels willing to work with them on small meetings.

    7. Meanwhile, since the change has not brought the desired effect to the original manager responsible for it, he decides that he needs yet a bigger initiative to make every one forget about this minor fiasco…

    The upshot is, after two more agency changes the manager comes up with what he expects to be his great career-making move: get rid of the agency altogether and have the attendees make their own flight arrangements and then apply for reimbursement. The manager is so busy congratulating himself on the huge savings this will achieve that he once again forgets to talk to anyone who actually works with the agency. The change is made, much to the annoyance of many of the attendees (whose goodwill is paramount to the work the company does). Thus the manager doesn’t discover until too late that the company had, until then, always been able to negotiate large discounts and special concessions from the airlines based on the large volume of travel. Now, with no way of tracking this volume, the company is losing millions of dollars a year- far more than it paid even the first, ‘expensive’ agency.

    This is my long-winded way of explaining why any change announced from the top without first consulting those ‘on the ground’ who actually do the work is likely to be highly counterproductive.

    (Note that this is actually of interest only to those who like things to actually improve, since this tried and true method of career advancement for managers actually works very well. The manager in this case quickly moved to another company in a higher position at a larger salary.)

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences and insight, Sarah. What you describe is frustrating and demotivating! What this gentlemen did doesn’t follow the best practices of high performance, values aligned organizations . . . at all. If we look at the steps an effective change agent would follow from my post, there is no evidence that this manager 1) educated the workforce, 2) involved the workforce, 3) embedded the new behaviors with aligned systems, or 4) refined the change over time.

      Managing by announcements is not effective change leadership – I’m right with you!



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