"What could a squirrel possibly have to do with organizational change?” you may be asking yourself. Consider the following:
• Like a squirrel, an organization is a living organism.
• When change occurs, organizations often need to
employ resiliency and 'stretch their limits' to recover
from changes whether planned or unplanned.
• Even after everything is settled and done
repercussions can occur and sometimes the
organizational pain is worse than the initial change.
These kinds of unforeseen obstacles can interfere with the organizations’ plans and lessons can be learned in unexpected ways... consider my ‘squirrel’ example. I learned this lesson about change one morning when I was taking Wolfie and Roxy, my two dogs, for their walk.
Here’s What Happened:
This beautiful summer morning everything seemed fine, except for the squirrel on the front lawn. I didn’t see the little critter, but they did and took off in pursuit. The pesky rodent escaped, however, while attempting to restrain these two ‘vicious canines,’ the leash handle caught my right ring finger, causing what I thought was a minor sprain.
Other than a couple of painful handshakes it seemed fine and I thought it would heal on its own. However, by November it was still painful and I mentioned it to my doctor who said a splint might help. It did, however, by January the pain was worse than originally and the doctor recommended a specialist.
Imagine my surprise when this doctor showed me on an x-ray where the finger was broken. I was fortunate because it healed well; I had done everything right; however, the pain was caused by the ligaments and tendons atrophying from the injury. The doctor went on to explain had I not sought treatment the finger would have become immobile over time.
The treatment was to put the finger in a brace twice a day for 30 minutes to stretch the tendons and ligaments that were atrophying.
After removing the brace the first time I was surprised by the excruciating pain I felt as I exercised the finger; more painful than the original injury! The doctor explained that it would subside over time; and would take about a year to heal completely.
Here’s where the comparison to organizational change comes in.
The organization is going along just fine; everything proceeding as planned. Suddenly, something happens – an unexpected change; market conditions, merger/acquisition, reorganization, staff cuts, etc., like the squirrel.
Organizational leaders need to take these repercussions into account and work with the teams within the organization to assist with the growing pains associated with them. Like the healing from my broken finger, the organizational healing process takes time and some of the repercussions can be more painful than the original change. However, with the right leadership, planning and organizational coaching, effective change can occur in organizations as leaders and team members learn new skills and behaviors to aid in the organization's success.
In the meantime, remember to watch out for squirrels!