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Managing Change 101

“God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the ones I should,
and the wisdom to know the difference”

These were the opening lines of the music CD i was playing at work today. My neighbour at work keeps me well supplied with good music, but I hardly look at the titles, coz they are usually Polish. Yes, I can actually recognise some of the Grzegorz Ciechowski songs now. I was undecidedly fumbling through my music CDs when a hand suddenly thrust a CD at me. ok, decision made!)

anyways, enough digression. I was shaken out of my working trance by this unexpected ENGLISH words – I used to have a poster at my old office with these exact words and had subconsciously read them every day. I had always thought they were really beautiful, but I couldn’t have been reminded of them at a better time.

One of the “great expectations” when you have been imported into a new country as a “foreign talent” (yeah, I never really found out whether that is meant to be derogatory or complementary) is that you are expected to bring change – Your senior management wants you to add value, based on your experience in other countries. But the reality on the ground is different – human beings,in general, resist change. Especially when they are being initiated by a new kid on the block. So, one is forced to walk a very thin line – and the wisdom definitely comes in handy.

I know this is not the last time I will be moving, so I am just penning these lessons down as I learn them, just in case I forget:

If you are new to a place:

– Never say, “Where I come from, we did it that way..”. Know it,think it, note it, but say it not. Find a better way to put that point across.

– Understand underlying facts before you question the way things are done. Things may be done in obviously stupid ways, but there could be historic, cultural, legal, circumstantial explanations to it. Be understanding. Don’t rush in to effect change even when the situation obviously warrants it. You are new – take the extra time to check all sides, one more time.

– For every little situation, don’t tell people how it was done somewhere else. Tell them only if it is relevant. They may not be interested in knowing it. And they can get tired of it.

– Choose the battles you want to fight (I borrowed that line from my ex-boss! boy, he was wise.) There will be a million things you are itching to change and probably, rightfully so. But choose carefully. If its your first initiative, choose one which is slightly easier to execute, one that is easy for you to convince people and brings observable business gains – Get people to believe in you first and accept your credibility. You can be more adventurous and ambitious once you have established yourself.

– After you have done your necessary “homework”, and you have decided to do something, have confidence in yourself. You will face resistance – change always will. No matter how good your proposal is, you can’t get everyone to agree. Make sure you have the agreement from the relevant people, but don’t back off in face of resistance. Face them, be nice to them, manage them, convince them. (Ok, just once I have had to resort to the “If you can’t convince them, confuse them!” method. Yeah, its not that difficult in my line of work – it is surprising how people get thrown off by information overload. But that’s not something I am particularly proud of – lets reserve that for desperate moments). But point is, if you are right – stick to your decision – that will win you respect in the long run!

Thankfully for me, I had made a short note of these when I learnt them through the mistakes of others. As obvious as these may seem, I have seen people come in new, try to create a whirlwind, just annoy everyone else and eventually end up as misfits. I have tried to watch and learn – they have immensely helped me. Of course I am also only learning – and as much as I have tried to not repeat mistakes I have seen before, someone else might actually be learning from the mistakes I am making – but I will keep adding to my diary – and let each change be better managed than the one before.

All these can be so succinctly summed up in :

“God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the ones I should,
and the wisdom to know the difference”

Posted in Management on April 21, 2005

5 Responses

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  1. Srijith says

    Pearls of wisdom. Right on!

  2. anjali says

    Agree with you completely…….unfortunately, learnt it the hard way…as a manager working in Belgium, of Indian origin, with Indian and American work experience managing a pan-European team, it was as complicated as things could get. I made all the mistakes you have noted and my team did not hesitate to provide feedback (they are very American about such things!!) Anyways, I am glad to have gotten this feedback….i will always be a global manager, so i consider these important lessons learnt.

  3. Anonymous says

    Thanks. Am making a note.


  4. Surya says

    Hi Anjali,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences – its good to know there are others out there facing similar situations!

  5. Vulturo says

    Amazing Read, I think I can actually faced with some of those issues and could well keep those guidelines in mind

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