Change Brings Change

Posted by steve | Management & Leadership | Tuesday 27 May 2014 9:21 pm

In the period of just a few weeks, 3 very dear friends of mine have either changed jobs or are in the process of changing jobs. I’ve known all three for 10+ years each. What is interesting is that each of these friends are self actualizing. They are choosing to change jobs. Making choices about their careers without having or allowing someone else to choose by either action or inaction.

They have all picked excellent new jobs and I’m excited for them. In the cases where I see them everyday in my current job, I will miss them when they are gone.

I’ve seen this pattern before. First, it is a good sign isn’t it? While we may never see the IT jobs market we all experienced in the ’90s again, portions of the economy are showing real signs of investment again. The other encouraging thing I’m noticing is that more seasoned veterans of IT development and management, like myself and my friends, are both getting noticed for their own value and we are gaining clarity about our roles as well. The ever present pressure to keep costs down by seeking less expensive labor will be with us for some time, but the value of the skilled talent is also starting to become more obvious as the real keystone to how companies can create the future they want. It is an exciting time.

When I was a manager at a fairly large software development shop years ago there were many interesting lessons to be learned. At that time I was part of a team where there were employees that had been with the company for over 20 years. They knew how things worked and why. Yet we were careful in ensuring that creative voices could be heard. I was one of those voices and enjoyed that experience. New ideas were encouraged and looked at seriously. The funny thing was, and see if this doesn’t sound familiar where you work today, the senior management in the company changed about as often as fashion trends. The folks that did the work, the coders, kept on while the leaders kept deciding what they wanted to do. And that was one of the funniest examples I remember. I had an employee on my team that had been with the company for maybe 18-20 years before I joined. It was important to listen to him. He was smart and he knew what was real and what was “noise”. I’ll never forget this part. One week we all received an email that the company had reconfigured management again, new faces, old faces, silos or not. Another change in configuration. Anyway this guy opens up his desk drawer and files the new org chart away. Then he says to me “Want to see what the next org after this one expires will look like?” I was curious about what he meant. He’d been keeping every org chart for over 20 years. And sure enough if you matched the pattern with a previous one you could see what the one that followed it a few years later looked like. It was amazing.

So is that a bad thing? Like everything else in life, a little yes, a little no, and “do it with moderation” someone wise will add.

I’ll cite another example.

One of the jobs I had was Product Manager of an IT team for a manufacturing firm. Because it was a relatively small company, and because the company had only 2 real product lines, if you were a Product Manager you were well known and visible. And I got to know the President and Vice Presidents on a first name basis because we talked frequently. I remember that the manufacturing shop, when I joined the company, was running a standard 40-hour work week single day shift. All employees on the manufacturing floor worked 8 hours a day for 5 days a week unless there was overtime. One day the Vice President of manufacturing had the idea that he would change the structure and still have everyone work 40 hour weeks, but change it to 2 shifts that overlapped in such a way that a single employee worked 10 hours per day for 4 days per week. Some folks worked Monday through Thursday, and some Tuesday through Friday. You get the idea.

And guess what happened? All the benchmarks they had for productivity went up. This stayed that way for several years (I was with that company for 13 years) and got to see what I’m about to describe happen more than once. After a year or two when things felt like they were in a rut, the schedules changed. Still 40 hours per week but now everyone was switched back to working 8 hours per day and 5 days per week. Guess what happened? Benchmarks for productivity went up.

My take away was that introducing change can have benefit.

People make changes in their lives for so many reasons. Things I’ve noticed include:

  1. Someone gets married
  2. Divorce
  3. Kids go off to college
  4. A neighbor moves out or in
  5. Someone close to you dies
  6. Someone gets fired or laid off
  7. Someone you know changes jobs
  8. A friend buys a new car

The saying I’ve adopted is “Change Brings Change”. When people around you change their lives, or have their lives changed unwillingly, it is human nature to pause and reflect about the decisions you make in your own life. As a manager I came to expect changes in a team if any person in that team made a change. If someone left, almost without fail, someone else leaves for a new job too. If a team member buys a new car, someone else will very soon too. It happens.

Should you change things for yourself just to break a pattern? I think it is worth personal reflection. It cuts both ways. You may realize that you are living in a “rut” or have compromised on something important to you too many times. Or you could realize what you have to be thankful about your world and life as it is. We all know people who are always complaining about their job and sometimes hopping from job to job but not really improving their lives.

Change may be good. It may be disruptive. But one thing for sure I notice is that you owe it to yourself to reflect on your life too. Maybe you need to invent your own future, or maybe rededicate the one you have already made? It never hurts to look at things hard in the eye.

One thing for sure. Change will wake you up.

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