I was working with the Melbourne Zoo and was told how two elephants adapted to the new enclosure. The new enclosure was larger, greener, provided a swimming pool and was more like the natural environment of an elephant in the wild. Youâ€™d expect two elephants to react positively to such a one sided choice. The old postage stamp or the new jungle with pool.
The female elephant seemed excited from day one and enjoyed the opportunity to walk to the new enclosure exploring all the way.
The male elephant did not like being out of his usual enclosure and refused to co-operate. It took over two years of gradual encouragement to get him used to moving and behaving himself in a new environment. Even at the last moment he needed to be taken by truck to his new home.
I am not wanting to make a gender comparison here but simply a comparison of two reactions to change. Some people do change easily. Some do it very hard. If you are managing and implementing change, remember that the decision to make the change is done in a moment. The times it takes for everyone to accept the change can be much longer.
Some will deny, resist and fight against the change. Some will grieve as they would the loss of a friend. Some will be excited and want to move quickly. As a manager of this process, you will feel like you are herding kittens. You will need to be very aware of the range of reactions and accept that everyone is doing their best.
You will need to explain to the deniers that it is really happening and wonâ€™t go away. You may need to this often until they accept. Their reaction is not rational so it canâ€™t be explained away simply. You will need to listen to the angry ventilators without agreeing to them. The may want to hang on to â€˜the old wayâ€™ because they know it so well. You will need to show compassion to the grievers and help them move on into the present.
What to do with the excited ones that want to get on with it. You can use them as an example or ask them to move at a pace that allows everyone to stay together.
Rationally, we all know that we need to improve to stay in business and keep our clients and customers satisfied. Emotionally, we move at different rates to accept this change. Some of us move so slowly that it looks like resistance.
We want all our elephants to change and continue to improve. As a skilled change agent, your challenge it to help everyone move at their own pace whilst keeping the client satisfied. Back to normal is not normal. Forward to normal is.