Disclaimer: all ideas are mine. I don’t talk on behalf of any company and don’t represent anyone else’s opinions.
So your company decided to do a reorganization — shuffle teams and staffs. The situation is specially tricky when the company haven’t figured out the exact details. Some people react as if everything they used to know and love is going to hell overnight.
- Will I keep my job? What if they lay me off? What if they lay off people I enjoy working with and look up to?
- Will I be forced to leave the tech stack I spent so much time to learn?
- Will I like my new colleagues? My new manager? My manager’s manager all the way up? Do I have to prove myself to the new crew?
I don’t claim to have the answer to all those questions because every company and reorganization is different but before I start, let’s take a look at this:
These are some [lucky] Syrian children after adults forced them into a new lifestyle under a civil war. Now that is a change that’s hard to cope with. It is all about perspective.
If you’re working in the IT industry, the change wouldn’t probably be as dramatic — you can always change jobs! But let’s say you’re loyal to your company. How can we make life easier?
In this article, I’ll share my own experience dealing with change plus some quotes and stories.
Learn from that boy in black shirt 👆
Yep! He probably figured it out! I don’t know that boy but look at how he’s posing for the camera of some random photographer while the rest of the kids are probably chatting about the disaster that’s surrounding them.
Change is the only constant in life — Heraclitus
A few years ago I was working at an online retail company who had seen better days. It was bought by a Canadian company to expand their business to the nordic and European region but soon after the acquisition, many key people left. I joined the company after one of their web developers left and there was an opening. The CEO called for a rather expensive meeting where the whole company was invited to a 2-day long brainstorming event to come up with something called BHAG standing for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It was amazing to see how the old employees came up with minor ideas that was just a bit different from what they have been doing for years. I, being new to the company also came up with some ideas but was “convinced” by the others that those ideas are too radical.
The majority were really not up for a change (this highlights the need for internal communication which is another issue). I left the company as it didn’t feel like I can make any difference. A few months later the CEO quit and this time a French company took over the broken ship. I haven’t heard much about them ever since.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. — Albert Einstein
The only way to enjoy a change is to truly embrace it. I can’t emphasize this enough and there are books written about it (my favorite: Who moved my cheese? by Spencer Johnson). But… what does it exactly mean to embrace the change?
Start from within
We humans are very limited creatures. Our perception of the world is limited by the spectrum of what our 5 senses pass to our heavily filtering neural networks only to be processed by 1.5kg of fat where the results are stored in a heavily filtered memory. That’s why no two people have exactly the same interpretation of the world or even the simplest event.
It’s up to you how you interpret the change. This story does a great job at explaining what I mean:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
He replied, “The one you feed.”
Adapt to it
This is not just about companies and jobs. In nature, the species that adapt, survive.
The ability to adapt to new conditions has probably never been as crucial as it is today with a rapid pace of change.
Do you know print designers who failed to go digital and ended up jobless? How about all those retailers whose market is swallowed by Amazon? This happens all the time.
Adaptation is not easy. Sometimes your world view changes, sometimes you find yourself at very uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations but overall, that old nature rule dominates your survival: the ability to adapt.
Fortunately human beings are one of the most versatile creatures. So put that 150 Zettabytes of DNA into work, will ya?
There’s nothing worse than being passive during a change. It’s like voting abstain and letting others choose your fate. Your role might be small but in hard times you can win a lot by showing your best side and be vocal about what you want to do next. Be part of the reorg.
Think about all the things that frustrated you at work or at the current organization structure. Then try to pick the things you can influence to make it better. Put your ideas on the table. The company may choose another way, but at least you’re heard.
When a system is stable, it’s hard to change it significantly. The easiest time to leave a mark is when the system has recognized the need for a change and is open to it. When other people see disaster, you can see opportunities. Seize them!
Keep the good parts
As much as it is important to raise awareness to things that didn’t work out, it is crucial to mention the things that are working well. A reorg may change a lot of things and if there are not enough positive feedback, people driving it may actually take away the good stuff too. So think about the things that you like and make sure relevant people know about it.
Believe it or not, many companies, small or big go down because they fail to adapt themselves to the market. Remember how Microsoft lost the browser wars to Google Chrome or how Palm lost its innovative WebOS to HP and then LG?
Think about how Nokia stuck to Symbian too stubbornly and lost the smartphone market to iOS and Android, two operating systems that didn’t even exist when they had the upper hand in that market. BlackBerry lost to Apple and Samsung due to excessive focus on enterprise over consumer tastes and preferences.
Microsoft, under Satya Nadella changed focus to a cloud-first approach. Its Edge browser (despite suffering from lack of popularity from the web development community) is objectively better than their IE in many ways. Some argue that it is even better than Chrome in some ways.
Nokia got over its hatred and came back with Android.
And WebOS? Didn’t make it to the PDA market but found a few million users who buy LG TVs.
But some companies don’t make it. Intel lost the mobile revolution. SAAB and Motorola got drained from their patents only to find new owners. Yahoo? Well, somebody got a golden parachute package.
We’re living at amazing times. Many significant changes are happening for the first time. New players come and old ones go. In order to survive in such an environment, companies have to change and evolve. If you’re working at a company which doesn’t change with the same pace, you’re sitting in a sinking boat.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Back to that little guy 👆. Will he let the war that’s out of his control eat him up? Or will he grow to be the father to the next generation of thriving Syrian children? Only time will tell… 😃 Wish him the best!