Be Open to Change!

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“The only constant is change.”

“Be open to change.”

“Embrace change.”

For those who work in small businesses or startups, these mantras probably aren’t necessary. When you’re breathing constant change, you don’t have to be reminded that it exists.

No, the only people that have to be reminded that “change happens” are those who work for large, slow moving organizations, such as large corporations and government agencies. Many of us have actually stuck with these organizations, despite all the bureaucracy, specifically because change is such a rarity.

Stop telling us safety seeking employees about this whole change thing. Stop giving us copies of Who Moved My Cheese? If we truly embraced change, we probably wouldn’t suffer the high degree of bureaucracy in favor of the safety of the large organization.

The Social Bonds of a Team

I’m sure that, somewhere out there, some popular business wisdom says that people get stagnant when they stay in the same core group too long. Maybe they’re supposed to start failing to come up with new ideas because they are stuck in the mode of groupthink. Maybe they’re too comfortable and complacent. Maybe well-bonded teams are supposedly full of self-promotion and cronyism.

There must be some business wisdom that says that, because it seems that reorganizations often target the cohesive teams as non-productive.

Here’s a different perspective: Teams are families. They have black sheep and dysfunctional members. However, they also find a way to survive despite the individual failings of each team member that would otherwise be somewhat insurmountable. Teams have an implicit loyalty and trust that bypasses the initial trust evaluation phase that occurs with a new relationship.

What if teams function as an extension of the neural networks that shape the individual members of the team? Just as a person who takes up tennis one year, then switches to piano, then cooking,  never becomes good at anything, teams that never build a cohesive unit never become good at anything.

Of course, reorganization itself doesn’t have to permanently break down team cohesiveness. New teams can form, just like people join new families. The danger occurs in the perpetual reorganization cycle, especially when team members have no real input about their interests. Such cycles have the same effect on team building that moving a child from foster home to foster home has on trust. Eventually, people just assume that any bonding effort will be wasted and quit bothering to try.

What’s in a Name/Logo?

Once, maybe twice, in a business’ life, things change to warrant a name change.  “Bob Jones Consulting” may not be an appropriate name for a company that “Bob Jones” has severed ties with.  “Turducken Shack” might be inappropriate for a restaurant chain who magically found a sleeper hit in its vegetarian fare.

Understandably, if you’re dealing with customers in person, who you are representing can be as important as how you represent the company.  That’s fine.

Once you get below a certain level of granularity, however, does the customer really care what organization within the company you represent?  If a customer had a positive interaction with the sales department, but had a horrible interaction when getting technical support for a problem placing the order on the website, do the department labels really matter?

Does the reporting structure matter? Is your new marketing slogan, “Reorganized to Serve You Better”?

Does the customer care that the marketing department has a new blue logo, while the IT department has a shiny black background logo with monochrome green outlines?  Does the customer care some guy in the marketing department still has his red logo background on his computer’s desktop?

Meanwhile, while we’re all splitting hairs, the customer has hung up after hearing, “Your call is important to us,” for the 20th time–probably because it’s a lie.


Don’t Confuse Us With the Judean People’s Front

…we’re the People’s Front of Judea!

How many times has your organization made minor or major organization changes that made the naming of teams or departments less than 100% aligned with their job descriptions?  Obviously, the confusion generated by such inconsistencies cannot be allowed.

More importantly, generic department names such as “information technology” won’t because such terms are neither cool nor do they offer enough variety to give every mid-level manager a team with a different name.  Worse still, what would happen if the CIO was also in charge of the sales department?  Clearly, “information technology” would not be a broad enough term for the department, and you’d have to name your department for some job that loosely resembles your function…  You’d become the “Barrista Department”.

Inevitably, no name fits the mission completely, and no mission fits the need completely.  Therefore, management and teams must change, and names along with them.

A lovely side effect of this is that the “old” names tend to still be used for some time after the fact.  Maybe you gave your team fancy logo wear to pump them up for the last name change.  Maybe you prefixed all of your documents with an abbreviation of the department name.  Maybe you had 2 million glossy business cards printed up with the new department name and logo.  Maybe you even had a special domain name with that department or division represented.

Well, forget them.  They’re all useless.  Any use of the old names is likely to produce confusion.  Using the old names may also suggest that the old way was good enough, and we all know that reorganizations are perfect.

Burn those business cards, shirts, and servers with legacy names and logos on them. Otherwise, you may get a scolding for clinging to the “old ways”.

[If you don’t get the title reference, see the following YouTube clip (warning: language)