20
Feb
11

Change Badger Style

I learn about change from many different sources. This time it’s been fascinating to watch the turmoil with the Wisconsin State Budget battle. The crisis is certainly a unique time in state government. I’ll let others analyze the politics. Instead, I prefer to look at the actions and consequences of the new Governor’s actions, and how it can apply to all of us. 

Scott Walker made it very clear that he would attack the budget deficits and state Unions would bear some of the brunt of his initiative. He won the election and his party took charge of the legislature. Gov. Walker was firmly within his rights and abilities to make the changes he proposed: Demanding that Unions pay for their benefits and curtailing their collective bargaining rights. 

He certainly caused incredible upheaval. Opposing Senators left the state in order to prevent the Senate from reaching the majority necessary to pass the bill. Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the Capitol and the surrounding square. Several school districts – including Madison and Milwaukee – were shut down as teachers joined the protests. All of this action brought national attention to the state, probably in an unwanted way.

 How many times do we plunge into change situations the same way? As bosses we have the legitimate right to make the changes we want in the way we want. We believe that if we communicate the change and it makes sense to us, all will go well. The change is made and very quickly we stumble into a gauntlet of unintended consequences.  

Change always takes more time and effort than expected. Communicating, gaining agreement, and implementing change is both an art and a science. Might doesn’t always make right, and our common sense is not necessarily our colleagues common sense. My experience says that most situations call for a pedantic approach to major change. Take time to plan, communicate, and understand the reactions to any moves. 

The reaction in our organizations rarely winds up in protests in the street. In fact, many times those reactions fail to reach the surface. Instead, disagreement goes underground, colleagues shut down, and key players can resort to malicious compliance in order to get by. We can create a situation every bit as complicated as Gov. Walker’s. 

As we watch the drama unfold in our neighbors’ Capitol, take the opportunity to reflect on how your approach to change can cause more disruption and reaction than you intended. The disruptions in your world may not make the nightly news, but they could have a bigger impact on your organization’s success.

 

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