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How to make and embrace changes
Doing this the right way will ensure that the organization and the people thrive!
We live in a world where changes are becoming a constant in our lives. The speed at which technology is changing and the way that markets are changing.
It’s really important for organizations and people to be resilient and prepared for changes. And changes are something that we often don’t have control of.
2 weeks ago, I received a lot of great feedback regarding the article How to develop a great tech strategy. The feedback that particularly stood out was: How to implement the changes in the tech strategy and how to embrace them if they are outside of your control.
So, in this article I’ll be sharing my experience and what is the best way of creating positive changes. And also what is the best way to embrace them if they are outside of your control.
Why are changes being made in organizations?
Here are the 3 most common reasons for changes being made in organizations:
✅ The business is changing direction from industry A to industry B.
✅ The business is either growing or the customer base is decreasing.
❌ The leadership team has changed, therefore there must be changes as well.
The first two reasons are very much valid, but the last one is far from that. There should never be a change made just for the sake of changing.
A common misconception is that new hires, especially in leadership positions, tend to feel that: “The more changes you make, the more productive you are”. That couldn’t be more far from the truth. Being a great leader means that you are making improvements that make sense, not making them just because you can.
When you are a new engineering leader these are the steps you should take, before making any changes:
Understand the situation thoroughly.
Build relationships with your team, manager, peers and stakeholders.
Develop a clear plan and get the buy-in from everyone. Read more about this in the article: How to develop a great tech strategy.
Only after that, you should communicate that plan and make the changes needed. You can read more about these steps in this article: The first 90 days when starting a new engineering leadership position (paid article).
Now let’s get into how to properly ensure that the implementation of the plan is going to be on point.
Creating positive changes in the organization
As mentioned above, the first step and the most important one is to make the RIGHT changes. You can have the best process in the world, but if the changes you are making, are not going to improve something, you are wasting everyone’s time and effort. The bigger the company, much bigger impact it’s going to have. Great preparation is always the key here.
❌ What not to do
When you wish to make a change, especially if it’s impacting a lot of people. the last thing you want to do is to just make a change, notify everyone either through email or on the all-hands meeting and expect that everything is going to work out.
I’ve been there and have felt the impact that kind of communication can have on the team. Even if the change is for the better, people need to understand the context and the reasons behind it. Changes alone are hard for people and if the reasons are not clear, it’s going to be even harder for everyone to embrace them.
✅ What to do
This is the process and the mindset that has helped me to implement positive changes across different organizations. I involve people as early as possible and make them a part of the change. These 3 things are always very important to me to be very clear:
It all starts with the motivation behind the change. I should be able to explain this very clearly to everyone and ensure there are no misunderstandings. I always try to over-communicate around it instead of assuming that everyone understands it. This is especially important if you work in a remote environment.
That’s where I already involve people and make them a part of the change. If you can clearly explain the why, people will gladly propose solutions to the problem. That’s also the best way to work with developers. Developers are creative problem-solvers and they work best when they are exposed to problems and asked for solutions. Not just been handed out tasks.
After we have the WHY and the WHAT, then it’s important to clearly define the HOW. Every organization is different and what may work for some may not for the other. I always look for ways to include this change in the existing process. Think about which teams can take ownership of this and empower them to make decisions around it. And also it’s really important to break down bigger changes to a set of smaller changes.
Organizational changes should be done slowly. The reason is that too many changes in a short amount of time can cause immense stress to people. Which is never going to be a good plan for long-term success.
Instead, it’s a lot better to make small changes iteratively. This will ensure that:
people have the time to adapt to the changes,
the changes are not overwhelming,
the whole organization functions a lot better.
When there is a bigger organizational change needed. Think, about how to break it down into a set of smaller changes.
When changes are introduced the right way, it’s much easier to embrace them. When they are not, then we need to realize that they are outside of our control and do our best to embrace them.
The changes only affect us as much as we let them.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes here in my career and one of the biggest reasons was that I was emotionally invested either in:
Which then caused me to react to changes subjectively and not objectively.
❌ What not to do
I’ve made this mistake multiple times in my career. As a developer and as a manager as well. When a certain change was introduced and I didn’t agree with it, I reacted to it negatively and expressed this more in an emotional way, rather than professionally. My mindset was: “I’ve invested so much time into this and now we are moving in a completely different direction”.
You can control what you can control.
I didn’t understand the concept of this and this has caused me to burn multiple bridges - with my peers, manager and reports as well (unknowingly).
✅ What to do
Instead of reacting to changes emotionally, take a step back and don’t react immediately. I would also recommend to book some time off if it’s needed. That break should be enough time, so you stay composed and react professionally.
Disagree and commit.
The best thing you can do in this case is to let your manager know about potential issues that this decision has brought and even though you don’t agree with it, commit to it 100%.
That’s going to show you as a great professional and a person that people can count on, even though you don’t agree with the changes.
You are going to maintain great relationships that you have built and that’s what’s really important. Being a great professional is what we should all strive towards.
Also, it’s important to note that when you experience enough changes in your career, it’s going to get easier and easier.
The way we approach making changes and embracing them can really make or break the organization. Doing it the right way will ensure that the organization thrives, on the opposite side, doing it the wrong way can cause a lot more problems than benefits.
Make sure to take your time, especially in big, important changes.
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