Guiding Libraries and Info Pros Through Change

David Lee King gave an amazing talk on handling change within our libraries. He started by asking a few questions and reading a few quotes. The first question was how many of us have had a hard time changing things in our libraries – lots of hands were raised. Then what kinds of change are hard – tech or other? Both! How many of us had to change ourselves while trying to implement change? A good number.

David, like a few others, recommended reading Stephen Abram’s article in OneSource on change within libraries.

He then read a quote from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins which basically said that spending time to motivate people is a waste of effort – the right people will be self-motivated – but the key is to not de-motivate them! What a great quote!! I don’t have the book, so I can’t write the exact quote, but the gist is right.

Change is gonna happen whether we like it or not – just take a look at librarian want ads these days – they’re all full of new (fun sounding) jobs.

So what is change? Change the old way:

  • leaders simply ordered changes
  • goal: getting the change accomplished
  • when it failed the leaders would review change to see what went wrong

The problem is that they were looking in the wrong place (within their organizations) – because change is external. Transitions (reorientation people have to go through inside before the change can work) however, are internal. The reason most changes failed was because leaders focused on getting the change done instead of getting people through the transition.

Saying Goodbye

So, what are the stages of transition?

  1. Saying goodbye (letting go of the way things used to be)
  2. Shifting into neutral (in between state – full of uncertainty and confusion)
    This is where you focus on the details. You have to want to change to get past this phase and unfortunately, some people get stuck here. These people don’t let go of the old ways. On the other end of things, some people get frightened and leave
  3. Moving forward- requires people to begin behaving in a new way

Of course there is going to be resistance to change, in fact, “nearly 2/3 of changes in corporate environments fail”, but resistance isn’t the problem – management’s reaction to resistance is the problem – resistors aren’t seeing it as resistance – they see it as survival!

Three levels of resistance:

  1. info based – not enough info with the new thing, don’t understand, disagree with the idea, confused
  2. physiological & emotional – job threatened, future with organization threatened, respect of your peers at risk (loss of power – feelings of incompetence) – all in your head (but still real!)
  3. bigger stuff – personal histories, significant disagreement over values, etc

So, how do we navigate through change?

Tips just for leaders & techies:

  • remember that you’ve already come to terms with the change, but others still have their own stages to go through
  • understand why people might not want to change
  • understand that it’s the transitions, not the change, that’s causing waves

Steps to take in helping change run smoothly:

  • describe the change succinctly (1 minute or less) change and why it must happen
  • plan carefully
  • help people let go (explain why they have to let go – why it’s a necessary change)
  • constant communication
  • create temporary solutions when needed (things to make the change move smoother)
  • model new behavior – practice what you preach, don’t say we need a blog and then never contribute
  • provide practice & training in new things)
  • if you want staff to use web 2.0, you better have an RSS reader and you better be actively using it and reading blogs etc etc

David than reminded us not to do these things:

  • don’t confuse novelty with innovation
  • don’t confuse motion with action
  • don’t keep something going if it still has a “few good years of life left”

More tips & reminders for techies:

  • you might be able to change quickly
  • there are areas where you don’t change quickly (it departments have to stop saying no first – think it through)
  • always share too much… (and do too much training) it should feel this way to you – cause you’re not the user
  • technojust(ification) – make sure it makes sense (the opposite of technolust)

After all of this if you still won’t change, you need to remember that refusing to change will lead to missed career opportunities and missed changes to expand your network and meet new people (like I do at conferences and through my blog). Most importantly, you’ll miss out on the possibility of shaping your new destiny and reality – don’t get me wrong, it will be shaped, the question is who do you want to do it – you or someone else?

Some final pointers from David:

  • learn all there is to about change
  • break old habits
  • work on stress management strategies
  • whine with purpose (constructive criticism is good)

What an awesome talk!!! I hope I did it justice in my summarization – and I hope you’re all motivated to change the way you handle change in your institutions.

[update] See David’s Slides [/update]

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