It's 2015, and it may look set to be a year of many changes.
While most of the changes will eventually be changes for the better, still some of the changes could be rather turbulent and may cause discomfort if not disruption to work.
Perhaps it's time that we learn to really accept change as a constant feature in our professional lives, and it might be helpful to inculcate in our hearts and minds how best to prepare ourselves for the changes ahead. And to that, we might get some advice from the late Kungfu legend, Bruce Lee.
Hence, this month's topics:
This issue's main article is on "Bruce Lee and the Tao of Change Management", and we explore how conventional change management thinking may be inadequate to prepare ourselves for the impending frequent changes, and how we can deal with such changes more effectively.
Bruce Lee and the Tao of Change Management
by c.j. Ng
Not too long ago, I have a friend who just attended a 2-day workshop on Change Management, and was enthusiastically sharing what she learnt in that workshop. According to her, what struck her most was that change is like unfreezing the ice in a teapot, put it into a teapot of a different shape (that represents the future state), and then refreezing it.
What she had described is the Kurt Lewin's model of change management, where the three phases of change include:
The premise is very simple. First you have to get people warm-up to the idea that they have to change. Then we get them to change. Then we make sure that stick to the new ways and DON'T EVER revert back to the old ways.
While this premise will be
for certain changes (such
as losing weight, where you have to stick to your new
diet AND exercise regime FOREVER), it may not be as
practical if we live and work in an age of frequent and
sometimes turbulent changes.
Enter the Dragon
"Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."
Or worse still, some companies have already froze themselves into the new ways of behaviours, that they will have to go through the long and painful process of unfreezing themselves when even newer changes take place.
The solution? Don't think of ourselves as ice. Instead, get everybody to think of ourselves as water in a container, like a teapot. If we put the "water" in a teapot, then we become the teapot. If you put the "water" into a bottle, we become the bottle.
"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water." said Bruce Lee. Likewise, what all of us need to be aware today is to never get set into one form, be that a set of procedures, a certain organisation structures, or even a certain way of working. There could be forces beyond our control that could force us to change, and the more fluid and flexible we are in adapting to different work demands, the higher our chance of dealing with changes successfully.
"A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready... ...Ready for whatever may come." Perhaps this should be the mental conditioning for employees, especially managers and executives too. Perhaps this is a new approach that companies need to institutionalise.
The other aspect of conventional ideas about managing change, is to reduce the resistance towards the changes. It's called the "force-field analysis" where by there are forces for change, and there are forces against the change, and change will only be successful if the forces for the change are stronger and hence overpower the forces against the change.
Hence, if you are dealing with people, and you know that some people will be more resistant to changes than others. If you look closer, however, people may not be simply resisting the changes. Sometimes, they are just hesitant, not not entirely against the changes. And sometimes, such a behaviour is actually good for the change. Let me explain.
When people fear or are resisting change, at times it could that they are comfortable at where they are, and hence didn't want to change their old habits and environment. However, if change is imminent, or that why we MUST change has been clearly communicated, most people do and agree that they would have to change.
What they are considering next are
Sometimes acting to fast to implement changes may not always be a good idea, IF many of your people have doubts NOT about why they must change, BUT what they have to change into. Hence instead of rushing to change, perhaps a deeper thinking and clarifying of what to change into and where we are all heading towards may actually help the change efforts.
Not only will you gain more buy-in from all around, you could also gain insight on what could be some of the potential roadblocks or risks that you need to mitigate, which allows you to have a smoother transition.
Water Flows from Higher to Lower
Despite our best efforts and the best of intentions, there could still be doubts and resistance from different corners with regards to the change. In fact, no matter how good you are as a leader or manager, there could always be people who would doubt your decisions or intentions.
What this means is that we win over the people whom are supportive of us, and those who are sitting on the fences. If there is enough momentum to have enough people supportive of the changes, the change will then succeed, with or without the buy-in of people resisting such changes.
Another way to make sure the water flows from higher to lower ground, is to ensure there are multiple small wins when implementing the change, rather than holding out for the massive change that frightens people. When people gain more confidence by having the small wins, you are more likely to gain greater buy-ins and momentum to create more productive changes in the near future.
Need help in getting better results for your change management efforts in 2015? Simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.
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for International Managers:
by Erin Meyer
Answer the following questions quickly without giving them much thought. Do you expect a boss to wear an Armani suit or khaki trousers with jogging shoes? Should she travel to work on a mountain bike or in a limousine? Do you call him “Mr. Director,” or are you more likely to address him as “Sam”? How you respond to these questions depends on your individual personality. It also may reflect the country you come from.
At home I was a near-full-time bicycle commuter. I’m a senior vice president and my Australian staff thought it was great that I rode a bike to work like many of them did. So I decided to bring my bicycle with me when I was assigned to a new job in China.
Unfortunately, Henning’s decision backfired:
My team was humiliated that their boss rode a bike to work like a common person. There are plenty of bikes on the road here but they are not carrying vice presidents. The team felt my actions suggested to the company that their boss was unimportant, and that they, by association, were also unimportant.
Danes have something called “the Law Of Jante”, which is
a set of extremely egalitarian
principles. Do not think you are better
than others. Do not think you are
smarter than others. Do not think you
are more important than others. These
and the other Jante rules are part of
the way the Danes live. Hierarchy is
almost entirely absent in this society.
Children call the teacher by his first
name. Young children challenge elders
without hesitation. And the boss really
is treated like he is just one of the
team — a sort of facilitator among
For anyone working globally, the nuances of hierarchy can be complicated. It is no longer enough to know how to lead the Australian, Chinese, Nigerian, or Danish way. You have to know how to manage up and down the cultural spectrum, and be flexible enough to adapt your style to the culture at hand. Here are a few pointers to get you started.
In an egalitarian culture:
In a hierarchical culture:
After several years in China, Steve Henning reflected on his experience:
I soon got rid of the bike, and stopped asking everyone to call me by my first name (Mr. Steve was our compromise!). I abandoned early strategies to make their culture more like my own, like implementing an open-floor seating plan. My team no more wanted me seated in a cubicle [than] riding a bike.
He came to not only adapt to this new culture, but to also see that it had its advantages:
When I was managing in Australia,
every idea had to be hashed out at each
level. Hours and hours were lost trying
to create buy-in. When I first started
working in China, I felt frustrated that
my staff wouldn’t challenge my ideas.
But I have developed a very close
relationship with them over the past six
years — almost a father-son connection.
And I have come to love managing in
China. There is great beauty in giving a
clear instruction and watching your
competent and enthusiastic team jump
right in and attack the project at hand
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