Change is Gonna Come

The prior blog post in this series described how individuals and organizations work through change as a result of disruptions in the workplace. The next several articles will show these concepts coming to life in a fictional nonprofit, which we will call Bayside Community Libraries.

The Change

Bayside Community Libraries is a network of local libraries that has experienced tremendous change in the past decade. As e-readers including Kindles and iPads have become more widespread among the general public, Bayside has seen a stark decline in its customer base, and rapidly changing consumer needs overall.

With less demand for Bayside’s traditional hard copy publications and a resulting difficulty justifying the existence of three libraries in the network, the Board of Directors decided to close down one of the libraries and revamp the business model for the remaining two. The new business model primarily focuses on digital content through the following organizational objectives:

  • Swap one-half of existing hard copy publications for e-reader editions.
  • Train staff to show customers how to consume content electronically.
  • Promote benefits of new electronic content to the community at large.

The Change Curve at Bayside

As predicted by the Change Curve, Bayside employees initially had a difficult time dealing with this widespread change, but eventually grew to accept it and even move on. They reacted per the following stages:

  • Stage One: Denial—Surviving employees felt shell-shocked when they realized some of their peers had been let go.
  • Stage Two: Anger—Denial turned to anger as employees realized that not only did they lose some of their friends, but they had to answer to new work objectives, too.
  • Stage Three: Bargaining—Employees began proposing alternative scenarios to their employers, such as: “If we keep Library #3 open, I’ll help to transform two-thirds of the hard copy content in my library into digital form.”
  • Stage Four: Depression—Some long-standing employees quit as a result of the major changes.
  • Stage Five: Acceptance—Other employees decided to embrace the change and volunteered to lead teams to implement the new objectives.
  • Stage Six: Moving On—As weeks passed, Bayside survived the change, and the two remaining libraries began to transform the nonprofit’s traditional business model per the new strategic objectives.

The Change Cycle at Bayside

While employees were working through their individual change reactions, Bayside began to Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze at an organizational level.

Stage One: Unfreeze. Bayside knew it needed to retain only its most committed, forward-thinking employees if the change were going to stick. Leaders decided to eliminate an entire library and re-allocated staff accordingly. Months before the reduction in force, the organization began investing in the development of the identified high-potential staff, strategically drawing them into their new mission and vision for the network.

Stage Two: Change. As disgruntled employees left and those who were committed to the new vision became ambassadors for the change, acceptance emerged. The indifferent employees in the middle—neither angry nor enthusiastic—began to accept the change as their “new normal.”

Stage Three: Refreeze. Leaders allowed some time for this new normal to stick and then began training employees on the evolving business model. Rebranding teams emerged, led by enthusiastic staff (called “change champions”), and employees as a whole gradually grew more excited about the future of Bayside.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of this tale on Bayside Community Libraries and its change journey.

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  1. Pingback: There is No Such Thing as Too Much Communication During Change |

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