What are the similarities between raising kids in puberty and going through an organizational change project? What are the parallels and what can we learn from the two? How much effort does it take to get something done? And how flexible are you yourself as an educator or change agent to make it all happen.
Geert-Jan de Steur
When raising children, you go through different stages. And some stages are more challenging than others. Frankly speaking I started late with having children, I was 42 when the 1st one joint our family. We have two wonderful daughters, a 9 year old and a 16 year old. But in all honestly, our 16 year old daughter I occasionally could glue behind the wallpaper. At times i feel i have totally lost control over how to communicate with her. What was the standard way of communicating with her, two month ago, all over a sudden, does not work anymore, as if we speak different languages. It is as if they deliberately and continuously change the rules on how to deal with her. No one knows what the new rules are actually, so you’re always looking for the solution. In fact isn’t that identical to what happens during organizational change projects..!
It isn’t all that easy,.. raising kids.. You want it all to go smoothly and in Harmony, but that is often so far from reality…In fact it really is just work! And I find so remarkable nowadays that I regularly discuss these topics with some of my business associates with kids the same age. The beauty of it all is that everyone, really everyone, has a different solution to this „universal problem”. One parent goes for more stricter approaches, the other goes completely „Laisse faire” and lets it all go with the flow, and sometimes you will be surprised by the unexpected. For example, A few months ago our daughter introduced her boyfriend (Vance), a very nice guy, nothing wrong. And one evening she says “I’m going to Vance now and I will stay the night and i don’t know what time I will be home tomorrow”. This announcement is still echoing within the walls of our house. Particularly her non-verbal communication, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Her bodily expressions actually saying ” and don’t you have the nerve to object, because I have it all arranged.”
Organisational change fundamentally is not very different from raising kids. As a change agent you will be able to monitor the announced transition very clear and appropriately, but, to get everybody march along with you, is an affort as challenging as raising kids in puberty. If you really want to go all the way in truly getting the work floor involved in the process, than often more than once you receive sneers born out of sheer frustration and impotence. To deal with this requires the necessary self-knowledge and ability to absorb, to steer the process in the right direction. Often people see you as the personification of unwanted change. You are the bearer of the bad news and they will surely let you know… You must surely have some masochistic genes to like this and persevere. Again there is a parallel with raising children!
If I succeed to leave behind a different mindset and have teams opt for simplicity, If I offer a workable structure providing guidance and have participants work independently during a transition, if I succeed to really stimulate open discussion and act as facilitator instead of being the perceived messenger of bad news, than I have achieved the highest level of participative change . And with the energy boost i get from such development I can handle even the worst critics of the organizational change process. Its an energy boost I almost always feel when working with teams and individuals during a change process.
But if I succeed to also at home regain some form of participation from my 16 year old daughter, i’d be as happy as a dog with two tails. The challenge is that we parents are the key to that success! My conclusion: Parenting is hard work, just like managing change and improvement projects.