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No one Likes Change
We have all heard it, people don’t like change. Change is responsible for stress in the work place. As I look back on my career, I see many instances where things have changed in my job. Many of these things have been accompanied by stress. We have been on 8:30-5:00 since I started working here and now we have to work 7-4 with a mandatory 1-hour lunch. We are going to work 4-10’s, or we have been working 4-10 and now we are going to do something different. No flex time anymore. We are changing software packages. You have to wear a dress (for women) and at button shirt and tie (for men). You have to find your own replacement if you want to take vacation. No one is allowed an office, we will all sit in a cube farm or in an open space. I could go on. Some of these scenarios I lived through, others were told to me by associates. They all caused people stress to one degree or another. Clearly change will not be accepted.

The Truth about Consulting
As a consultant, I am surrounded by change. While I have a standard way of doing documentation, and work very hard to make it the best I can, some customers have their own way of doing documentation. Some have a particular part they want you to use. They may want you to use their preferred PCB manufacturer. I like to communicate through email. I have had customers prefer to use other communication packages, like “slack.” Some people want you to come to their facility for updates, others want to come to your facility. Some people will use DropBox, OneDrive, iCloud, GoogleDrive, Mega, Box, NextCloud, SpiderOak, IDrive, or pCloud while others will absolutely FREEK OUT if you put their files anywhere on the internet. Which is a problem because, increasingly, some files are too large to email. This requires a throwback to the days of Sneaker-net.

My point is, that is a lot of change to deal with. Here is the funny part, “It really doesn’t bother me.” Am I immune to the stresses or change? Hardly. Anyone who has worked with me knows I can get worked up about change. So, what is the difference?

Managing One-O-One
I spend far too much time thinking, period. That aside, I have spent a large amount of time thinking about change and the stress it causes in the workplace. I have come to a startling conclusion. Change is NOT the cause of stress in the workplace.

The number one cause of stress in the workplace is not the work, but the management style. Managers have a hard job. They take abuse from above and from below. A manager’s job, especially and engineering manager, is like herding cats. Their reports want to do things their own way. The managers manager wants him or her to solve a problem. So, the manager thinks about the problem. They might research the problem. A good manager will even talk to the people the problem is associated with. Then they decide on a course of action. They call a meeting and announce “The Change.” This will solve all the problems; 6-Sigma, 5-S, Continuous Support (based on 4), Kaizen (based on 3). Is there a two and a one? We called them the management flavor of the month. The manager is happy. His or her managers are happy. The workers are all angry.

The Take Away
It was not the change that upset the employees, it was the lack of control. Stress in the workplace is not about change is it about someone else forcing you to do something. How many of us like being micromanaged? That is a situation where you become a robot directed by someone else. It is the total loss of control. I think that it is more difficult for those people whose jobs involve problem solving. If it is your job to find a problem and then fix it, having someone come down and say you are the problem and I am going to fix you will cause stress.

Is there a batter way?
In this world there are managers and there are leaders. Most managers are not leaders and many leaders are not managers. That could be a whole other newsletter in itself. I think a great way to reduce the stress associated with change, increase the acceptance of change, and in the end actually have a chance of solving the problem that necessitated the change, is for the manager to involve the people who the change will affect in coming up with and implementing the changes that will solve the problem.

While I poked fun at several of the process improvement styles, I have seen all of them make some positive improvements. While I don’t advocate any of them, I will use the Kaizen method to illustrate my point. In this program the employees are asked to find ways to improve a process. They identify the process that is causing the greatest problem, or has the most influence on a process. Then they come up with ways to improve that process. They design a solution and they all work on implementing it. They measure the results. If the solution does not work, it is abandoned and another solution is tried. The boss never told them what to do. They were all part of the process. There was change. There was a problem and a solution and measurement to see if the solution solved the problem.

Change for the sake of change is chaos, it causes stress and it is bad. When changes must be made to solve a specific problem, involving those who will be affected by the change, not only will get their buy in, but because they understand the reasons for the current process will likely generate more pertinent solutions. Not all solutions fix every problem. Flexibility in implementation is tricky but important to success.

Final thoughts
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