Change Does Not and Will Not Suck
You may have noticed that we went through a few changes here at INALJ last month – state page editors replaced by senior editors, and what on earth are these new senior assistant jobs? This was a subtle change, but it also wasn’t an easy change – Naomi had to figure out who was going to become a Senior Editor or a Senior Assistant, who was just going to depart for bigger and better things, and write up new guidelines for all the new roles. All the existing staff had to adjust to their new roles, which in some cases were wildly different. For example, I went from covering the page of the smallest state (Rhode Island) to two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec). I had to introduce myself to new assistants, research the Canadian library landscape, and work on some very busy pages. It wasn’t easy – ask me how many times a day INALJ Ontario times out on me, or my lame attempts at French via Google Translate with the Quebecois editors. In the end, the change was for the better, both for me and for the organization – I get a chance to grow and work on other pages, and INALJ gets a streamlined staff that will result in more consistent updating of content.
What’s the bottom line in all this? While change can be scary, and be a lot of work – it doesn’t have to suck, and it will not suck – as long as you remain perspective and understand the nature of change and how to react to it.
If you were at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas in June, there was a Conversation Started entitled “Change Does Not Suck” (full disclosure: I was on the panel). We discussed change in depth – how to manage it (within yourself and with your colleagues), how to recognize change for the sake of change (and how to prevent it), and
You can read the wrap-up via Twitter here, but I do want to call out a few salient points:
- The change that has potential to suck the most is the one you can’t control. I deal with this daily – I report to a supervisor based in Florence, Italy – six hours ahead of the home office in New York. This means I can’t just call her at 3 PM with a query, because it’s 9 PM in Italy and most likely not working (or thinking about work). On her side, her 9 AM workday starts when I am still sound asleep at 3 AM – so she is left without support (both from me and from our home office) until close to the end of her day. Outside of an extreme move (her moving house back to the States), we are just going to have to deal with this. (I didn’t make this point in the panel, but this is also the kind of change that you can use to your advantage – her being offline for the afternoon frees up my time for special projects, and coming in to a to-do list means I can plan my day accordingly!)
- Own your change. If you don’t believe in the changes you want to implement, how is anyone else going to believe in them? Think of what RuPaul says at the end of every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race: “If you can’t love yourself then how the HELL are you going to love anyone else?!” Be passionate. If you believe in yourself and what you want to do, so will everyone around you. Give off the good vibes.
- Don’t sugarcoat change. While it is important to be a supportive change agent, and work with others to hear their concerns, there will come a point when you will have to tell people to “deal with it” (as my mom always says to me when I start whining). This goes hand in hand with the point above about owning your change – you not only have to be passionate about it, but you also have to be prepared to defend it in the face of opposition – and tell the most vocal naysayers that they will not sway you.
- Recognize change for change’s sake and avoid it. Some people are addicted to coffee, some people are addicted to change. They like the thrill of the new. Sometimes that change is good, sometimes it’s just there because someone likes the concept of change. One way to recognize the good from the bad is by asking yourself the question “What is the goal here?” My supervisor loves to do this in meetings, and I wasn’t sure why until I was preparing for the ALA panel. When she asks this question (and often answers it herself), it is her way of letting us know that there is a point to what we are doing; it is not a needless exercise. If you cannot answer the “what is the goal here” question, then maybe this change really isn’t effective.
So how did these points apply to INALJ’s recent staff change?
- Naomi was passionate about wanting to change our structure. She stressed over and over that this would be good for our website, for our staff, and for herself – and she was enthusiastic and positive that this would work. She owned her ideas and believed in them, so I believed in them.
- At the same time, she did not sugarcoat things – her emails made it very clear that she was not open to appeals to this new structure, but also remained supportive and provided clarification where necessary. This is the combination of being responsive and being a manager- she stood her ground.
- Naomi had goals in mind with these changes – it would be easier to manage a smaller staff with direct control of the page, it would lessen the load on WordPress and our hosting servers. This was not done on a whim, it had a purpose.
Thus, two weeks in as our new Senior Editor for Ontario and Quebec, I can tell you that this was very effective change, and I commend everyone who worked to be a part of it. We are the true change agents!