A note from IMCA Board Chair, Anna Hargis:
Change is vital, even if it can be painful.
Does the word change frighten you? I remember the thrill early in my career brought by any new process or technological change. It was exciting to experience the shift from typewriters to PCs and updates to everything from phone systems to the cars we drove. I remember working as a promotion writer/producer at a local television station when we got our first PCs. I helped my boss and mentor set up the new machine and she growled at me throughout the process. I remember telling her "this machine is amazing – just wait until you try it!" She pointed at me and said "Just wait kiddo – in twenty years some young person is going to bring you the latest tech gadget and will be all excited too. You'll see how tiring this whole change thing can be." She wouldn't let me take the self-correcting typewriter off her desk that day and while she tried working with the PC, she never loved it like I did. We lost her to cancer two years later, so unfortunately I never got to wave a smart phone at her.
The smart phone was the "gadget" that finally made me sigh. I remembered my former mentor's words when one of my staff members started showing me the cool new apps and how the phone was much more than a phone. The words "one more thing to figure out" did cross my mind – I couldn't help it. Once I got to play with it and realized it was a bit like the tricorders on Star Trek, I got with the program and now I can't live without my little tech buddy. It's a big part of my personal and professional life. I never thought I'd have to make time to disconnect though and I'm sure many of you feel the same.
I'll admit the constant pace of change does tire me out from time to time. It's the volume of change and being constantly bombarded by emails, podcasts, articles, etc. all touting the next great thing which wears me down. I imagine that many of IMCA’s members feel the same way so I thought I'd share my simple matrix for evaluating any change in case it helps you the next time you're asked to lead a change. Keep in mind – any change that heads my way from above is different. This is for a project I've initiated and am considering:
- Are there multiple benefits to implementing this change? In a time of limited budget and staff resources, I like to identify at least two or three key benefits before firing up the engines.
- Do we have the staff resources and budget for this idea? Is my team too burned out with what we already have on our plate to embrace the change? Budget is a factor – but the people resources can sometimes be harder to judge and I prefer to get their buy-in.
- Will we have to drop or change other aspects of our current programs to implement this? If yes, what are the costs/benefits?
It's a relatively intuitive approach, but when I try to skip steps in this evaluation process, it tends to backfire. A good example of using it appropriately was when we updated our agent cooperative advertising program earlier this year. My team spent a year evaluating and reviewing the changes and preparing our plan. We were careful with our implementation plan and because of that; the transition for our agents to the updated program was smooth. The changes we made were well received and I see now how vital they were. It's improved and modernized our program significantly and I've shared the positive feedback with my team. They are on the front lines of the changes and the increased workload we created, but they understand the bigger picture and what this means for our agency force. That understanding helps them embrace the change.
I heard a presentation recently which featured a quote that made me sigh. "Today is the slowest rate of technological change you will ever experience in your lifetime." It's from the 2016 Shelly Palmer Report and it reminds me there's no end in sight to the variety and increased pace of change we'll all experience. It helps me remember that change is vital to survival – in addition to being inevitable. I don't want to turn into the person who constantly resists change, and is eventually replaced by someone who will embrace it. It's up to me to stay relevant and inspired.
My participation in IMCA is one of the key tools I used to accomplish my personal goal of embracing change. I have a network of professionals to bounce ideas off and occasionally vent if needed. I meet vendors whose products and services help me through the challenge of change. A professional organization dedicated to what we do can make all the difference and it's one of the main reasons I don't have problem volunteering my time to make IMCA a better organization. I encourage you to take advantage of the many resources we offer. Avoiding change isn't an option either personally or professionally, so finding ways to ease the ensuing stress is a good thing. Best of luck to you when you tackle your next big change!