So spake Greek philosopher Heraclitus, circa 500 B.C. If the inevitability of change was obvious to someone who lived that long ago, why are transitions so arduous?
Turns out there are four basic personality types when it comes to change. Knowing how each interprets and responds to change is the key to successfully managing change.
I learned this at a recent seminar sponsored by my local American Public Works Association chapter. Based on the best-selling book Who Moved My Cheese?, the program included a "behavior test" and group exercises that demonstrated how different personality types approach change.
I signed up because my staff and I are about to learn new software for producing PUBLIC WORKS magazine, part of a companywide move to update publishing processes to the newest industry standard. Though it will streamline our workflow and give us a marketable new skill, there's some trepidation.
My behavior test revealed that I'm a "dominant" personality type with hints of the "conscientious." I like change because I like to learn new things-so I'm looking forward to the initiative-and I like to act fast. At the same time, the "conscientious" part of me makes me a bit of a perfectionist and I want to wait until the solution's absolutely right before implementing it. (Engineers tend to fall into this category.)
"Influencers" love to work with others. They're cheerful and easy-going and want to have everybody on board before moving ahead with a change. In fact, they can spend so much time building consensus that they lose track of time.
"Supporters" are extremely reliable, excellent listeners, and prefer a stable working environment. When they seem reluctant to change, they're really considering the potential ramifications.
PUBL;IC WORKS' other two editors didn't attend the seminar, so I tried putting myself in their shoes to see how they view our upcoming transition.
For the first time, I saw how my need to get things done makes me impatient and inflexible. My attitude is: 'Get it out there and we'll fine-tune the process later.'
The other editors are more cautious. They raise questions, which drives me nuts. How in the world can a group of people plan for every possible contingency? Then my detail-orientation kicks in and I begin to overanalyze the situation and its possible solutions. This drives them nuts because it delays decision-making and anyway, what's wrong with their ideas?!
So you can see how, taken to the extreme, each approach to change becomes its greatest weakness. Luckily, I learned which characteristics could hamper the team's overall effectiveness, and which ones to emphasize.
And when we're bogged down in the no-man's land between beginning and finishing a process change, I'll repeat this mantra: Remember the big picture, remember the big picture, remember the . . .