April 5, 2001
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Change Monster
Tom Peters, the Nostradamas of the business world, warned us several years ago: If you think the past three years have been crazy, just wait for the next eighteen months! One only has to look at the change resulting from the recent bevy of mergers, reorganizations, start-ups and shut-downs to see that he was right. Unfortunately, more often than not, widespread corporate change often means ignoring the effect such enormous, and unsettling, changes have on employees. Jeanie Daniel Duck, author of The Change Monster, uses her years with Boston Consulting Group to bring a human face to corporate change. Why is this important, you may ask, when the financial life or death of a company may be on the line? Duck answers this question early in the book, suggesting that [c]hanging an organization is inherently and inescapably an emotional human process. And perhaps more importantly, she adds, If leaders dont take into consideration the emotional data, all the operational information and numeric data in the world wont be enough to turn around a company (14).
To help leaders understand and harness the change monster, Duck introduces her Change Curve, breaking down the change process into five stages: stagnation, preparation, implementation, determination, and fruition. To illustrate these stages, she interweaves the five-step change curve with the real-life story of the turnaround of Micro Switch, a division of Honeywell, and the fictional failure of 2 pharmaceutical companies. In both scenarios, each companys future is in the hands of leaders who have little change management experience, and this enables us, as readers, to witness the entire journey (the good and the bad choices) through the change process.
One of the sections of the book I especially liked was the time she spent diagnosing stagnation. She points out that stagnation can reveal itself in either Depressive or Hyperactive companies. Depressive companies have no energy, no sense of direction, and often are resting on their laurels. Hyperactive companies are pointed in too many directions, and often are staffed with exhausted employees. What makes this discussion about stagnation so crucial is that Duck brings us full circle (full curve?) by the end of the book. She warns that Micro Switch, even after successfully changing their organization, is again in danger of stagnation. A vicious circle to say the least.
What Duck does most successfully, and what all managers and leaders who are about to unleash the change monster need to focus on, is the fact that corporate change affects more than just the bottom line; corporate change affects living and breathing human beings, the core of any business.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.