In a previous life as a Local Authority IT Manager, I had two application support teams. They provided a help line service to staff using a couple of key IT systems in the authority, and were really rather good at it most of the time. Which is more than can be said for a lot of IT support teams in my experience.
In fact they were so good at it that they wanted to become better.
One of the areas they were keen to know about was change management. Working in a Local Authority is a master class in change management. I was there for about five years and had three managers, three different departments, and at least four restructures (the latest starting before the previous one had been completed) without changing my job. One of the reasons your Local Authority can appear a bit sullen to you as a customer is that the staff are being messed about by politicians like you would not believe. This applies quite generally in public sector, but whereas teachers and nurses get a sympathetic press much of the time, council workers are generally less fortunate.
So unsurprisingly my team was keen to understand how to handle the challenge of turning up for work and remaining sane.
I had also worked in a different Local Authority back in the 1980s and things were not so different then. One day the office received word that they were being moved to another building and we had to pack up immediately. Boxes appeared, were labelled and filled, and then disappeared. We moved as directed and found desks and boxes magically awaiting us.
Unfortunately for one person they were on holiday. When he returned to the office he found an empty space with a note saying “Sorry mate, we just couldn’t stand you any more”. It took him all morning to track us down.
Meanwhile, back to my team. I managed to arrange a day’s training for them on change management. It was illuminating and possibly saved quite a few of them from requiring therapy, despite talking at times about cheese that moved and polar bears on melting icebergs. Nothing is perfect.
We also talked about being scared and confused and feeling insecure. We talked about how people react when they feel those things and put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and realised why they asked stupid questions and how we should communicate changes properly and many other good things.
The one lesson that provoked a great deal of discussion as the trainer’s assertion that all change was loss.
My dears, I feel it is true. Not all of my colleagues were fully convinced but I uphold that proposition. When change happens we lose something, The something may be a thing we do not want, like an aching tooth or a few pounds of weight or loneliness. Nevertheless it is a loss and we must feel it and work through the stages of loss, however quickly and possibly gladly.
I must come to terms that I can’t use my pain as an excuse any more. I can’t hide behind my weight as a reason for not being sociable or not liking myself. I can’t demand sympathy from others because I am lonely and deserve special consideration. I have to face up to the responsibility of being happy.
It’s not that I want to be in pain or feel bad about myself or feel isolated. It’s unlikely that many people would actively seek those things for themselves.
But when we have been in those situations for a while we adapt to them, we learn how to live with them, work around them, define ourselves by them. Sometimes when they are taken away we no longer quite know who we are or how to behave. Then we feel scared and confused and insecure.
So why the sudden obsession with change management, EBL?
I’m glad you asked.
Life in EBL Towers is a little stressful. Despite completing the Great Project, which was a relief (and a change and a loss) this week is yet a Great Challenge. Sigoth will be unemployed as of the weekend, which leaves me in some anxiety about coping financially. I will be the only wage earner again, which I find quite hard, and we will have to be pretty tight-fisted. The Offspringses are all struggling too and I like to be their safety net – not that they often ask, but when they do it’s important.
In any case, it is true to say I am a little, well, scared and confused and insecure.
I am also known for catastrophising, so I wake up worrying about losing the house and moving mother to a home, which will kill her from the strain, and generally having uncheerful thoughts. I picture the Offspringses homeless or hungry or in variously desperate straits. Usually I hear wolves howling. The recent bitter wind from Mordor has not helped. At this rate I’ll be beating Orcs off with a stick and summoning Voldemort as my Life Coach.
I might even have to resort to a Knitted Army of Evil. Here’s one I made earlier.
Or things may turn out OK. I’ll let you know.