Monthly Archives: September 2011

Differing Transition Timetables

There are two kinds of organizational changes – planned and unplanned. Unplanned changes are just as the word implies; everyone goes through the transition process at the same time, including the leaders. In contrast, with a planned change, leaders have been actively engaged in research, analysis, deliberation, negotiation, discussion, etc. for some time, often many months or perhaps even years.

Food for Thought ~

For leaders involved in a planned change, their own personal transition process accompanied the change they were seeking to effect. It is likely they experienced a gradual adjustment throughout the planning phase. By the time the change is introduced to the rest of the organization, the leaders are personally several steps ahead or perhaps even through the major phases of their own transition. People just learning about the change may be in shock, dismay or confusion. Suffice it to say, a good leader needs to be acutely aware of this dynamic, maintain empathy and understanding, and skillfully manage the different timetables people will experience throughout the transition process.

Question of the day ~

Have you noticed the different “transition timetables” in changes you are leading or have led in your organization? How can you stay attuned with others who may be in a different phase in the transition process?

Managing change and transition is the subject of my new column in the North Bay Business Journal. To read the article, please click here.

New Article on Change and Transition

My new article on the subject of change and transition in the North Bay Business Journal is hot off the press. As a matter of fact, I just heard from a leader whose company has been through a recent merger. He called to tell me my column was “right on.” As he put it, “the hardest thing is the adjustment after the transaction, and we thought the transaction was tough.”

Understanding and Leading Change and Transition

We all know – and some of us even accept – that change is ever with us. Transition is the intrinsic companion to change. You may be wondering about the distinction between change and transition. Allow me to elaborate. Change is an event, something tangible that happens. In an organizational setting, it could be an acquisition or merger, a major re-organization, a move, a new boss. In contrast, a transition is a process, less tangible, yet still very real. It is the human experience, the psychological process that people go through as they acclimate to a change. It is an essential period of adjustment. It is the time between how it used to be, before the change, and how it is after the change has been accepted and integrated. It is a gradual process, and it takes time. This topic is of particular interest to me as I had the pleasure of working with one of the pioneering organizational analysts to explore this subject, William Bridges, Ph.D.

Click here to read the article.

Last week’s post regarding the disadvantages of scheduling back-to-back meetings seemed to resonate with many. One reader said it very well:
“I think people who are pretty good and confident on their feet figure they can wing it well enough to get by when their time is squeezed, foregoing the prep. And it’s mostly true–one can get by “well enough,” but that’s not the same as being totally on top of your game with a well-prepped meeting that goes really well.”

Break the Back-to-Back Habit

Last week’s post included social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister’s recommendation that in order to avoid decision fatigue, “do not schedule endless back-to-back meetings.” I strongly second that opinion. Busy leaders who need to see many people throughout their day are tempted to schedule as many appointments as possible and even “work people in” between the scheduled appointments. This is self-defeating behavior. What may appear to be maximizing the use of time is really sabotaging their effectiveness. Baumeister’s research clearly found that continuous decision-making, especially under stressful conditions, seriously compromises the quality of thinking and decision-making. Leaders must discipline themselves to break the back-to-back habit.

Food for Thought ~

What to do? The requisite corollary is to develop excellent time management tools, especially meeting management skills. If you and your co-workers don’t have them, get someone to teach you. Also, a leader should set aside preparation time for every meeting. If it’s important enough to meet, it’s important enough to be prepared. Showing up physically is not enough. You need to be intellectually and emotionally present as well. It takes time to shift gears between meetings. Try reallocating an hour’s appointment with 10 – 15 minutes for planning and preparation and 45 – 50 minutes for the meeting. (And let me know how it works out.)

Question of the day ~

What are your guidelines for scheduling appointments? Do you make time to think, plan and organize before meetings?

If you didn’t read it yet, click here to read my excerpts from the excellent New York Times Magazine article by John Tierney on decision fatigue.

New Research Findings on Decision Fatigue

Following last week’s post on dealing with crises and problems, synchronicity brought a fascinating article my way. The title is Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue? It’s by John Tierney, a science columnist for the New York Times. Tierney deftly describes social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister’s work on a phenomenon called ego depletion. Here’s his summary:

“Good decision making is not a trait of the person, in the sense that it’s always there,” Baumeister says. “It’s a state that fluctuates.” His studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions. “Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” Baumeister points out. That’s why the truly wise don’t restructure the company at 4 p.m. They don’t make major commitments during the cocktail hour. And if a decision must be made late in the day, they know not to do it on an empty stomach. “The best decision makers,” Baumeister says, “are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”

Food for Thought ~

Baumeister’s research and insights have profound and wide application – from improving our odds of making good decisions as leaders to understanding buyer behaviors and major social issues.

Question of the day ~

What strategies do you use (or need) to conserve your energies in order to be at your best when necessary?
The information in this article is so important that I created an excerpted version, which is available here.