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Something Old or Something New?

After a few months work by my web designer friends, my new web was launched last week. Like all change there was a clear need to be met, and in my case it was technology driven. The old software had fallen behind the times so much I couldn”t make updates easily, if at all. For many of you that will sound like a typical reason to change in these modern times where technology can be such a big factor in an organisations performance or lack of it.

Once the need for change was established you would think the rest would be easy. But like all changes it wasn”t. It wasn”t just a simple technological choice I had to face (“get me one that works”) but the roll on effect that the change would bring.

This week I am facing the dilemma of what to do about all my old material and it got me thinking of the problem that many organisations have to face during a change of technology, process or system. The choice of what to keep and what to throw away.

In my case my regular blogs will now live on my web, instead of elsewhere with a blog specific site as they have done for a number of years. I”ve always treated my blogs as a client resource. Something quick and easy to read, that shares an idea, gets you thinking, or perhaps reminds you of something you”d forgotten. The question is, do I fill my new web with all the old blogs or do I let them go and start afresh?

You must have faced this dilemma when making change in your organisation. Over the years you will have built up little systems, policies, practices and tools to help your organisation function. Many will have been created as a result of problems that have happened and are little Band-Aids that ensure the problem doesn”t happen again. When you change the larger system do these Band-Aids come over and become part of that?

Well, the obvious answer is normally no, because if you design the new system well it should be streamlined, efficient, make work easier and of course automatically deal with the potential risks and issues of your business.

But how many times have you seen an organisation struggle with this choice and often spend a lot of money building in their own little “practices from the past” to an already expensive tool. This approach often defeats the purpose of the new system, slows it down, or opens it up to new issues.

So why does it happen? It”s not logical is it?

Let”s go back to my blogs for some clues to the answer. Part of the dilemma is the emotional connection with my blogs. I created them, so they are, in a sense, part of me, and that makes it tougher to think that ‘they are no longer useful’.

Letting go of something you are emotionally connected to is hard. In change the emotional impact of ‘letting go’ is as big for systems and practices as it is for redundancy situations. In your workplace you and your people have become used to your little systems and ways of working. They become attached to them and comfortable with them. They often identify with them. People don”t like letting go of what they get comfortable with. Many will also remember the reason the Band-Aids were put in place in the first place and will be worried that the problem will reoccur (fear is just another emotional response). Others will be worried that they will not cope with the new system (just another fear).

How do you deal with this? The start point is to know that there will be a number of emotional reasons masquerading as logical and factual ones, presented when  you raise the possibility of a system change. You can”t dismiss these out of hand, because emotions don”t go away like that. You need to acknowledge them, record them and then find out what the issue is below the surface I.e what was the “fix” trying to solve and what is the real worry for the person raising the issue. Once you are clear on the reason you work them through with the people most effected and see if the new system deals with issue. Most people will let logic overcome the emotion if they are part of the review, but not if they are just told “the system will sort it”. If at the same time you can take out the worry for the person (ability to use the new system for example can be dealt with by explaining the training, and saying that they will have time to adapt etc), then you paving the way for the new system to do what it is meant to.

So in the case of my blogs, I need to consider what they are really there for, wether there is an issue if they are not part of the new web and if there are any issues how best to resolve them, all the time taking out the emotionality from the decision.

And like a good change agent maybe I should ask your opinion? Feel free to let me know what you would like to see on www.thechangefactor.com. What would make it useful to you?

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