Well that is a pretty depressing title. And what the hell does it mean? Does it mean I want Dynamics NAV to burn in the fires of eternal damnation? Has it’s time come?
Nothing so dark I must admit. This is an article about change, but not about change management. As a onetime victim of this medieval practice I am of the opinion that it should burn in the fires of eternal damnation.
So, on change. Dynamics NAV is changing and is becoming Business Central. For good or ill. I am a simple and optimistic guy so I think it is for the good. But time will tell, for all I know soon we might all work with SAP or some hitherto unthought of piece of technology.
Change seems to be a problem that nearly every organization I know wrestles with these days. That all important question seems to be “how do I get my people to change”?
This is a question that gets asked on a couple of levels. Microsoft wants their partners and users to adopt the latest technology. Their partners want their developers and consultants to start using the latest development tools and cloud offerings. Customers want their users to use the latest technology and newest processes. And all of them turn to change management. Which does not work.
“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” Peter Senge
But why? Change management has been around for years. You probably used it yourself right? And your projects succeeded. So what on earth is the problem?
To answer this we must first figure out what it is about change that is so difficult we feel the need to manage it. It is because our brains are wired to try to create a state of permanence. It has been clearly proven that we create our own reality out of the inputs that we get. The world we live in is constantly changing but it changes slowly. We don’t really notice it so everything seems permanent. Think of aging for instance. But every once in a while change happens so quickly that it upsets our image of the world. We need to adjust to that change, create an altered reality. And that is difficult. More difficult for some than others but it is easy for no one.
So what happens if we push the problem of change into the extreme? The ultimate form of change is death. It is the ultimate challenge to our reality. And if you ever went through a process of change you might have noticed that there is a mourning period you went through. I really cannot imagine how mourning can be managed. And that is precisely the problem I have with the term Change Management. It lacks the means to address our deep rooted fear of change that is ultimately fear of death. And it lacks the decisiveness that we need to adopt in modern day organizations.
So, I want to propose a new term here. Change Leadership. When we approach change from a leadership perspective we can start by taking decisive action. And then after getting the whole decision thing out of the way we can help people to adjust to the change. But how do you get people to face their fears and embrace change even though they are scared?
Lets stay with my exaggerated claim that change is death for a while. Inevitably we end up on a battlefield. And not just any battlefield, I want to take you back to 1916 to the battle of The Somme where a young lieutenant was leading his men into battle. That young lieutenant later wrote a prophesy that has got me thinking:
“The hands of the King are the hands of a healer.”
That young lieutenant was professor Tolkien, the author of the twentieth centuries favorite book. The quote is from The Return of the King and I think it says something deeply profound about leaders.
It does not mean only doctors make good leaders. It means that leaders need to be able to heal the damage they created. Think of Aragorn who leads his people into battle. A wise decision I’m sure we all agree. After all, he did help save the world. But when the battle is done there is much death, many are wounded. So even though he is weary he helps whomever he can, he draws forth arrows, disinfects wounds, and comforts the dying and the bereaved.
So when looked at from a business standpoint that means that while we have to be quick and decisive in changing our business we must also realize that this change creates havoc and injures a lot of loyal employees or customers. So we have to heal the hurt we helped create.
But how to do this. I’m sure you won’t need to draw forth arrows on the battlefield. That is difficult but is at least straightforward. How do you heal the invisible wounds of the umpteenth reorganization?
To answer this I turn to two people who have influenced me deeply, Carl Jung and Carl Rogers.
Carl Rogers (1902-1987) was a humanistic psychologist who agreed with the main assumptions of Abraham Maslow, but added that for a person to “grow”, they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood). Quote found here.
For me this rings very closely to the words of Jung who states that in order to accept the people we try to help we must first embrace our own darkness.
“I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and fellow-sufferer” , Carl Jung.
So, back to our old friend change. How can these venerable gentlemen help us to help others? It is by embracing our own fear of change that we can help others. We all share a common dread. That is death. In order to help others we must face our fear and accept it.
It is a fear that I share as well. What will happen if Business Central fails? I really don’t want to work with SAP. And I know Dynamics NAV so well, what am I going to do without it?
This realization fuels my compassion. So when faced with the next angry or fearful user or fellow developer I am able to listen and understand. And this understanding will bridge that gap between a failed and a successful project. Please try it. Whenever people speak in fear find your own fear. And respond from compassion. Respond to connect.
“When people think you’re trying to influence them, they put their guard up. But when they feel you’re trying to help them, or to muse your way to the right answer, or to be honest about your own imperfections, they open up to you. They hear what you have to say”, Susan Cain.
Authors note: This is an opinion piece. I wrote it on the premise of strong opinions, weakly held. If you don’t agree that is fine, I am open to civil discussion. Through discussion my understanding of the topic will grow and evolve. There is no place here for name calling and mud slinging though.
As always I am deeply indebted to those who wrote before me. Please read more from the fine people I quoted here. I stand on the shoulders of giants.
And many thanks to my dear wife for helping me to straighten out my arguments.