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Rubeus Hagrid – Change Agent

By Scott Franklin

Rubeus Hagrid, the beloved Keeper of Keys and Grounds at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is best known for his fascination with exotic (and potentially deadly) magical creatures including the Hippogriff, Acromantia, Thestrals and even Blast-End Skrewts. While not particularly noted for his academic expertise, R. Hagrid was quite knowledgeable on advanced change management methodologies. In the battle against Lord Volde…. er, He-Who-Must-Not-Be–Named…, Hagrid was sent on a coalition-building assignment to gain the support of the Giants in the upcoming war. Drawing on his natural change management skills, he advised his change management team that:

“You gotta be very careful with giants. If you give them too much to think about, they may just kill you to simplify things.”

As Mssr. Hagrid points out, during change it is critical to provide clear, simple direction during the transition phase; otherwise those affected by the change will work to kill it just to reduce the confusion. Three groups play critical roles during a change – sponsors, supervisors and employees – and each one can be overwhelmed in different ways.

Sponsors

Sponsors are busy people and after developing the direction and strategy for the organization and then providing funding and resources for the change, the last thing they want to hear is “You need to get out more. You need to build support for this change.  You need to communicate more.” More often than not, this is too ambiguous and confusing, so the response is “I don’t have time,” and the absence of active, engaged sponsorship will kill the change. As part of the change team, you should provide the sponsor with clear, direct activities such as “Can I schedule you to kick off the training session next Thursday at 8:00? We need you to share why we are doing the training, what they are going to learn, and what they are going to do with the training.” These are simple, easy-to-understand instructions. More often than not, the response will be positive.

Supervisors

Supervisors have a tough job during change. Rarely are they part of the decision process that initiated the change, yet they are responsible for implementation. From the other direction, they bear the brunt of the resistance to the change from the employees. If we don’t prepare and enable our supervisors to be effective change leaders we end up just squeezing them to ‘make it happen.’ They will tend towards self-preservation by removing the source of irritation – in other words, kill the change in its tracks. The most common mistake is to introduce the change to the supervisors and the employees at essentially the same time. This puts the supervisor in the position of adjusting to the change at the same time he is introducing it to his people.

Too much to think about = kill the change. To avoid this, it is critical to work with the supervisors to understand the change and their role in it to give them a chance to get on board. Then they can effectively introduce the change to the employees and coach them through the transition period.

Employees

Changes in an organization are introduced for business reasons – be it reduced cost, greater efficiency, faster delivery, etc. The employees are the ones actually changing the way they do their jobs or even changing what jobs they do. They generally have little direct control over the outcomes; they can only directly control their behaviors. Providing the employee with clear direction on what to do and when to do it, rather than focusing so much on the final outcomes, removes the ambiguity on what is expected from them. This means early in the change, the focus should be on an ‘A’ for effort. If the organization is implementing a purchasing process, focus on how consistently the new process is being followed, not on whether or not money and time are being saved. If the employee is not recognized for following the process, then we can confuse them with unclear expectations. When that happens, the tendency will be to find the path of least resistance (i.e., not using or misusing the new system) and the change is effectively killed.

It is a loss for the change management community that Hagrid chose to stay on at Hogwarts as the Care of Magical Creatures Professor rather than pursue his budding career as a change management professional. Fortunately for us, he did share at least this one insight. Maybe he is available for keynote engagements – all we will need to do is locate a dragon egg…

With over 20 years experience in organizational design, change management, and delivering sustainable improvements, Scott is a well-respected authority on organizational change, specializing in the leadership responsibilities of change management. Scott is a Prosci-certified change management professional and a certified trainer for Prosci’s change management programs. He brings specific expertise in the areas of creating a combined learning organization in parallel with a strengths-based organization, while simultaneously creating a culture of execution. You can reach Scott at changemgmt@LCE.com.

© 2011 Life Cycle Engineering

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