Not Knowing the Answer

I’m going to try and get back into the blogging habit, since I find it a helpful exercise, and reflection is an important part of my work that I tend to ignore. (More on that at another time.)

Sometimes not only is there no easy answer, there is no answer at all.

And that is scary.

I had the opportunity to take a one-day course on Leading Change. It has already had a significant impact on the way that I think about my project work, and my ongoing responsibilities.

There were a lot of neat tools one was: Project Management is the thing (hardware software, activity), change management is the people. And the people part is just as important as the project itself.Change is hard. Here is a perplexed looking schnauzer to make it seem a bit easier.

Also, resistance to change is normal. Have a plan that involves upfront communications (and feedback if possible), sponsorship of your project (think champions of your change), and have those champions model the change and reinforce the change.

The scary part of the day came near the end, when we were reviewing a list of questions and statements that might come up in response to a change.

Some were easy to address “There wasn’t a problem with how we did it before, why are we changing things?” and “There are more pressing problems for us to address right now”, I could explain why we were making the change or what processes were in place.

The second page of questions included:

“I am concerned about my ability to learn the new skills required for this change to be successful”

and

“This is going to require me to alter some of the belief I hold in how business should be conducted”

and

“This change will require me to learn a lot of new information or viewing existing information differently.”

And I found myself checking the “Truth” box next to those questions and the action plan box sat empty.

These are big questions. These are things that come up when you are changing people’s perceptions in how they do their jobs- why they do their jobs. It isn’t always verbalized, but if you ask yourself “What is really being said?” This might be what you are hearing.

And (as an added issue) in the library world, often a good part of our personal identity is tied up in our work. “I am a library technician” or “I am a librarian” and “that means that I do ___”. Find books for people, act as a gatekeeper, answer reference questions…. To some people it means  that they are an expert in information.

Acting as an agent of change (my unofficial job title) around digital initiatives means that I am almost constantly causing people to doubt their skills and their ability to appropriately meet the needs of the public. When I need people to learn new skills, they can feel like they are no longer experts in their jobs. They can (and do) feel like I am changing what it means to work in a library. And that is understandably scary for them.

I don’t know that there is a fix for this. There is no easy answer to these questions, that is for sure.

But, even if I don’t have any answers, I can commit to taking time with staff and supervisors who are afraid of what the impact of changes are having on their perception of their jobs, and their identity, and work with them to adapt, and find the places where things are still going to stay the same.

How do you deal with someone who is worried about the future of their job? Their profession?