Guiding Libraries & Info Pros Through Change

David Lee King, Digital Branch & Services Manager
Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library

The dinosaurs didn’t go extinct because the climate changed—not at all. They went extinct because they couldn’t adapt to the changes happening around them. –Stephen Abram

King opened his presentation with a reference to the above quote by SirsiDynix’s Vice President of Innovation to illustrate the problem of transitions and resistance to change. King emphasized that change is external. Transition is the internal process that people go through inside themselves. Most leaders base a project on accomplishing change rather than on getting their people through the change. King notes that resistance is the main reason why technology projects fail and recommends the following three-phase approach to change:

  1. Saying goodbye. This is when we let go of the past, the way things used to be, and our whole world of experience.
  2. Shifting into neutral, an in-between state filled with uncertainty and confusion. This is the phase when we simply cope with things as we focus on the details. Some people get stuck in this phase because they refuse to let go of old ways, get frightened and fell, or freeze at a new beginning.
  3. Moving forward. This phase requires that people begin to behave in a new way. Resistance might start happening in this phase if people sense that their competence and value might be at risk. King identified three levels of resistance
    • Information-based resistance occurs when people feel that they do not have enough information, are unfamiliar or in disagreement with an idea, or are confused.
    • Physiological/emotional resistance occurs when people feel that their jobs, peer respect, or future with the organization are threatened. King calls these fears “mind games,” but recognizes that they are very real to the individual.
    • Other resistance includes individual personal history and significant disagreement over values.

Leaders and “techies” have already come to terms with impending changes and understand why people might not want to change; that it’s the transition, not the change itself, which causes unrest in the organization. King recommends the following steps when dealing with change:

  • Describe the change succinctly (one minute or less) and why it must happen.
  • Plan carefully
  • Help people respectfully let go of the old
  • Maintain constant communication
  • Emphasize the purpose of the change, their part, and the big picture
  • Model new behaviors and provide practice and training

He also encourages the “techies” to always share too much information and realize that there are areas where change might not occur quickly.

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