Change is the only constant in life! It is inevitable. While this is widely recognized, as a critical part of any technology project, how much do we give it lip service vs actually taking steps to see the results?

The first step is in accepting people are different. They require different approaches with communication, training and in bringing them along the change journey so tools are adopted and used.

Everyone acts, and reacts quite differently, so to run generic programs, have the same learning delivery styles, and set the SAME expectations won't bring success.

A few years back -2006 actually - I did some change management training with STRATEGIC People Management Ltd who had an awesome analogy of understanding how people react to change (and how best to deal with this). Let me introduce the birds of change.



Ostrich – This person has their head “in the sand” – they are in this state of denial until events force them to confront the change and their associated fears. Can you think of someone in your team who insists the change wont impact them, and they just continue to go along with old tools, existing processes and ways of working?

Typically, these people feel more comfortable doing what they have always done, because that is what they know. They don't understand why they should have to change what they consider is working for them.

How do we deal with them?

We want to get their head out of the sand

  • Take time to listen and discuss how certain changes are impacting them or their role, especially the benefits to them
  • Identify what they do currently - and exactly what that translates to after the change (stop doing this, and start doing this)
  • Include individual coaching and action planning as to how they will manage the changes
  • Use open questions and paraphrasing (like "what is your main concern about this change?")
  • In your planning include regular one-on-ones to prevent regression to the old habits and behaviours

Headless chicken – This type can be disruptive to your team, as they run around causing panic. The change for them is disastrous; it impacts their ability to work, can't possibly help, will take more time, isn't effective and affects everyone!

All of this can also result in low morale among others if these people have any influence.

How do we deal with them?

We want to reduce disruption as soon as possible

  • Make sure the information they have is both correct and in enough detail to create an accurate reality rather than “doom and gloom”.
  • If the behaviour is really disruptive or negative, it may require a directive management style - people need to understand in some cases change is not an option, but a part of the business strategy and therefore of their role.
  • If necessary, after the expectations have been clearly set and communicated, if there is no change in behaviour, the mandate will need to come from above.
  • Coaching as per Ostrich is also required.

Eagle – These birds are often managers. Intellectually they understand the change, the necessity for it and benefits from it, but somehow they do not accept they are also impacted personally. They “soar” above the event.

Perhaps they are too busy to join in the training, possibly making adaptions to their own way of working so they are seen to be leading the change. Most managers need to play a dual role as a delivery agent as well as a recipient of change, which can cause additional stress.

How do we deal with them?

We need to encourage their acceptance, to get their support

  • Provide support in their leadership and management activities to reduce stress and give them the time and headspace to recognise what this change will truly mean to their team
  • Give guidance on the practice of being a delivery agent, and how they can best instil change behaviours in their teams
  • Encourage them also to participate in the same activities everyone else has to (like training).

Wise Owl – The owl accepts change and thinks “what does this mean to me and how can I take control of my situation – what do I need to do next?"

These people take personal responsibility for the part they need to play, but also become your biggest advocates in effecting change in others. You will notice these people finding new solutions within the tools, that improve the things they do, and showing others how simple these are.

How do we deal with them?

We want to have them lead by example and support others

  • Listening to and monitoring their involvement so you can use their experience to guide others. Include suggestions in plans and communication.
  • Involve these individuals in assisting others where you possibly can - like making them champions, allowing them to be available as a go-to person, empowering them to contribute to a forum with tips and tricks or examples of what they've done that has made a positive impact
  • Make these the people who will lead by example, and celebrate them for that
  • Give them opportunities to explore and upskill to keep them interested

HERE is a great audio interview by Live Tiles with Debbie where they discuss the challenges of change.


Other blog posts coming this month

  • People, Project or Product - focusing on the human aspects rather than the technology
  • The Tale of Two Companies - follow customer journeys down different paths
  • Blended learning - what works with training these days
  • Ongoing engagement - keep the spark alive and continue the momentum!

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We are also launching a brand new course on implementing Office 365, encompassing all these gems. Stay tuned for more!