Managing Change

When I do a presentation on change I like to compare change we choose to change inflicted upon us.  If you choose to go buy yourself a new cell phone, it is likely that there will be no complaining.  You will embrace the new technology and learn to do new things.  In my presentation I talk about the resistance that many companies face when implementing change.  My example here is implementing a new agency management system.  The agency staff is busy doing what they do best, sell and service insurance, so many see having to learn and begin to use a new system as a big headache.  There are even obstacles encountered when a vendor makes a major change in a process within their system.  I had a narrow vision which limited me to thinking of only two types of change.  But in the last year my vision of the types of change has been widened.


A presentation by Brady Polansky last year at the Nebraska Big I Tech Day reflected on change we didn’t choose, but accepted readily.  Brady used the evolution of how we buy and listen to music as his example of how people have migrated from records and record players to MP3 and iPods with a few stops in between.  There were many steps in this process, but we just seemed to accept each new source and device with relative ease.  This was an aspect of change I hadn’t considered.

Let us also consider what happens when there is a sudden change in circumstances.  In my case it was an accident my husband had while we were on vacation.  The details are in my post “Where Has Pat Been?“.  In a case like this you give little thought to the immediate effects of change.  You are concerned with what has to be done to get the situation in hand, make necessary arrangements, and dealing with the issues at hand.  However, there is the longer term effects of change that must be considered and managed.  Most of don’t actually understand or appreciate what all another individual does each day.  Since I travel a great deal and Gene is retired, he takes care of many of the errands in our life.  Things such as picking up the mail at our PO box, taking and picking up the dry cleaning, fueling both vehicles, etc.  He also takes care of the yard, garbage, and other household chores.  None of the chores have gone away.  It was necessary that I figure out how I would manage to take care of him, these chores and my work.  To say that some days this has been overwhelming would be an understatement.  Being in the midst of such change has made me think about how this relates to the workplace and how to manage equally sudden changes.

I once worked with an agency in which the principle owner and father of two of the producers became ill and was gone in a few short months.  While the two sons were great producers, they were struggling with how to manage the agency.  They were having issues with receivables, timely marketing of renewals, staff using the system correctly and in general how to run the agency.  As the elder brother said “I had no idea what Dad did every day and all the detail involved in running this place”.  It was refreshing how once they understand what needed to be done, they just “stepped up to the plate” and got on board.  They actually got on board quicker than their staff did.  But the staff soon saw that these men were serious and either needed to join the party or be replaced.  They were able to recover in this short period of time as they didn’t wait a long time to realize they had a problem and get help.

Consider what would happen in your office if a key owner, manager or employee was suddenly not able to work.  I have seen many occasions where everyone pulls together in the short run and everything is handled very well.  But what happens if this is a situation that goes on for a period of time?  It would be a rare insurance agency that could lose a staff member for any length of time and be able to absorb their work without overload on remaining staff.  I find many agencies that I work with that struggle when an account manager who handles a large book of commercial lines business is out for only a day.  So what would they do if it were for several months?

There are many types of change as illustrated here.  Is your agency prepared for them?  Do you have a plan for these types of changes?  Share your tips and your questions.