Change Management

"Hey, we've decided, let's move on..."

Consciously or subconsciously, we are constantly making decisions. Some of them small such as deciding what to wear for work that day or what to eat to lunch. Others are more important such as picking a candidate from a group of interviewees or choosing a software that meets the needs of the division. A few could have much larger impact or even life changing such as deciding which company to join or who to marry!

With respect to time, some are spot decisions while for others we take our time deciding depending on the impact the decision carries. This is extremely important and a prudent thing to do. Tony Robbins puts it nicely – he says “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”. In an organisational context, when the decision is made in a group, different decision making styles are used depending on various factors such as time available, organisation culture and the potential impact of the decision. Sometimes, we do not the luxury of abundant time to take decisions and must do the best we can under the circumstances. Within that time, we need to identify all the possible alternatives to choose from, analyse them and then go ahead and choose the best one.  

But once a decision is made, the focus needs to shift fully from analysis to implementation. This probably explains why some people are excellent in analysis but not so good in decision making. When they continuously evaluate the alternatives to make the choice as perfect as possible, they are unable to take a decision. In other words, they develop “Analysis Paralysis.” When a group takes a decision and some members of the group continue the analysis, it severely impedes future progress for the group.

Something like this recently happened in our housing complex. Some key decisions impacting the larger community were to be taken which involved substantial time and investment. The Management committee (MC) evaluated the alternatives and brought it’s recommendation to the general body in an Extraordinary General Body meeting (EGM). The matter was discussed at length in the EGM and finally a decision taken on that matter. Unfortunately, some residents did not agree with this decision and felt strongly enough about the issue to take a legal route. Once the matter went legal, the MC also took legal opinion and of the different things suggested by the legal counsel, a key one was the principle of “Res Judicata.”

Res Judicata simply means “a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties.” The notion is perhaps mostly to avoid unnecessary waste of resources in the court system. Res judicata does not merely prevent future judgements from contradicting earlier ones, but also prevents litigants from multiplying judgements, and confusion. I found the entire notion of Res Judicata pretty interesting because it is the legal equivalent of not opening up a decision once it has been made!

Organisations can benefit immensely through faster decision making and strategy implementation if the notion of Res Judicata gets embedded in its culture. While people have all the room to negotiate, sell their ideas and build consensus till the decision is reached, it needs to be binding once it’s made. For those whose ideas are not aligned to the final decision, they too need to move on by agreeing to disagree and showing commitment. Putting up roadblocks or trying to rake up the topic in other groups or forums is a strict no-no. Doing so, it can end up paralysing the entire organisation!

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Need for Speed

Need for Speed.png

We had just gone live successfully with a very important project. It called for a celebration – a big one! Being a large globally distributed project, it was decided that the project managers of each country would take their teams out for drinks and dinner. To make it uniform, a certain amount was earmarked per team member and it was coming out of the project budget. We were happy. And we did go out and have a blast!

Then came the shocker. I had paid the bill for my team and submitted it for reimbursement. Accounts folks came back saying they would reimburse the food and not the drinks. When pointed out that office parties seldom go dry, I was told that it was allowed only for customers. I tried explaining to them that I had just followed what was decided by the global project team. My boss understood my situation and tried to help. The issue went back and forth within the organization but finally nothing happened.

I am sure many of you who have been part of large organizations know how difficult and lengthy it can be to navigate the system. And I am not talking attitude – it’s just that rules get the better of intent. Even when the outcome is positive, decisions often take very long due to several levels of approvals, cross-geographical coordination and signatories out on travel.

This incident happened to me years back. Cut to the present. I read an article this morning in the papers with the headlines “Hunter pockets a cool Rs. 10L”. It sounded interesting and proceeded to read more of it. Here is an excerpt – “Anand Prakash, a senior security engineer with Flipkart, earned his bounty by finding and notifying Facebook about a bug that jeopardized the privacy of its account holders. The company wasted no time in fixing the issue and then amply rewarding Prakash for it

What caught my attention more than the bounty amount was the speed at which Facebook moved on this. By the end of the day, they had resolved the issue and paid a big amount to somebody sitting on the other side of the globe! The turn-around-time is just mind-boggling.

The media today is filled with stories of new-age companies – Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and the like. While it is fashionable, the question we need to ask ourselves is this – “Are these companies doing something remarkably different than their old world counterparts”. As I read through these stories, I am more and more convinced that they really are.

Among other things, these new-age companies understand the need for agility in today’s fast moving world. What's more impressive is that they have successfully woven that value into their way of working. Hats off!

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Don’t Resist brings new opportunities in life

We all have a natural instinct to resist change. How often do we occupy the usual seat of ours on the dining table or sofa at home?  Take for instance driving - we are so used to the position of clutch and accelerator. Assume, one fine day all automobile firms decide to interchange clutch and accelerator. How difficult you’d find driving your new car? It would take so much longer to adapt and challenging to drive.

Heart in heart, we human beings are very hard wired to preserve status quo.  We most often resist or avoid change, but we can’t run away from the fact that if anything is constant in life, its change.

Even if we resist or avoid, change will enter your life. When you reflect back in your life, you will be amused to see that there are changes which you yourselves initiated which gradually became easy to adopt. Over time, we become more flexible and open minded to adopt more so since we wanted it. For me, marriage for instance, was one of the big changes I embraced in my life. I married someone from a different community - the language was different, the food and culture was different from what I was used to. It was difficult initially but when I reflect back, I have become more flexible, open minded and understand cultural differences and diversities better. It actually brought out a new person in me – a wife, mother and of course a responsible mother!

Other big changes which we also consciously do are career shifts. I still remember when I decided to join the defence force to be part of the first batch of women officers in the Indian Navy. It was one big step in my life and there were mixed feeling in my family with questions, doubts and anxiety. It wasn’t easy for me either - leaving my comfort zone of family and entering an organisation which was completely male dominated. Once again when I look back, life in defence transformed me a lot. I have become more independent, self-confident and I got to discover my inner strengths and values which I wouldn’t have known if I had not stepped out of my comfort zone. The next big shift was when I moved to a completely new world once again – the corporate world. All these career shifts not only enhanced by professional and learning experience, these also led me to the realisation of what I wanted to do in my life.

Finally, the big change I initiated was quitting a good job and again lot of eyebrows were raised in my family, friends and colleagues. Now I am truly happy and satisfied doing what I always wanted to do.

In general, when looking back, I realize that all the good things in my life are the results of changes that I initiated or happened in the past.

People avoid changes and prefer to be in their comfort zones. I truly believe that once you get the courage and take the first step towards change, life will be much better and you start loving it.

Some of benefits I have experienced in terms of all the planned and unplanned changes in my life – personal growth, flexibility, newer opportunities, made me stronger and all changes got me to a new beginning and excitement.

Friends, next time you get the temptation to avoid or resist the change, at least initiate the ones that will lead you to where you want to be.