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  Look Over Yonder Wall - Managing Change

One of my favorite blues songs is called "Look Over Yonder Wall", and while the song carries no sublime messages, the title provides good advice for managers. If present information is any indication, it appears that there will be continued fiscal restraint, cutbacks and possible layoffs for next fiscal year, This indeed creates some "walls" that managers need to "look over".

Changes of this nature pose difficult challenges for managers. It is a time of great stress, not only for employees but also for managers and executives. Unfortunately, because of the degree of stress there is a tendency to focus on the event, or "the wall", with insufficient attention paid to what comes before the wall, and what is to come after. It is important to understand that changes such as downsizing do not consist of an event isolated in time. Downsizing occurs within a flow of events which precede and occur after the actual change announcement.

An organization's ability to deal with drastic negative change will depend primarily on the degree to which management has demonstrated its competence in the past. If management has fostered a sense of trust and credibility, has communicated effectively, and has demonstrated effective planning and decision making skills, the change adjustment period will be shortened, and the organization will have a much easier time of normalizing what it does after the change implementation. If these and other components are not in place before major change, there is going to one heck of a bumpy ride.

It is important that management begin to lay the foundation for negative changes in advance. It is also important that managers be very clear what will be required of them in helping their organizations, and their staff, move beyond events like budget cuts, and staff losses. The stakes are high. Without adequate preparation and planning your organization can be put into a tailspin that can last for years.

In this issue, and over the next few months The Public Sector Manager will be concentrating on managing change. More specifically, we will deal with the high impact kinds of changes that will face all of us in the next 18 months. Much of the material you see is based upon the content of a course we are developing, called "Leading The Elephant Through The Swamp -- Managing Change Through Leadership".

So, for now, "look over yonder wall" to the future, and start planning for it. Begin to assemble the pieces you will need to manage this kind of change effectively.

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