How to Manage Disruptive Change

Sept. 7, 2017
“There is nothing permanent except change,” Heraclitus, Persian philosopher

The world around us is spinning as we go about our daily tasks. The aircraft maintenance technician sees his/her share of radical change going on in the industry and in companies and departments. We live in exciting times with the speed at which new ideas, inventions, and technology is being created. But often times there is worry or stress over the expectations of what must be learned and mastered in our jobs or how to deal with the latest processes, procedures or regulations.

It is a common thought that people do not like change. Yet, as the Persian philosopher, Heraclitus, stated, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Change is all around us and in every part of our lives. Many times we do not even realize how subtle the changes are as they are taking place. But there are times when a big change inserts itself in our path. It might be a merger or acquisition of our company that causes people to think they could lose their job or status. The change could be a Next Generation technology that requires training, understanding and perhaps new certifications. The change could be a health issue or emergency for us personally or someone in our circle (at home or work). The change could be a new process that throws a monkey wrench in our way of doing our job and making it more difficult.

A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don’t change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully. So when change is literally a matter of life and death, people still have trouble following through with it.

No leader needs convincing that improvement and change is at the top of the agenda. You may even be the leader that is tasked with implementing a major change in your organization. If people cannot make the changes they dearly want to in their personal lives (like the study above), how are you going to pull off a major change in the organization?

Although change can be intimidating as an immediate reaction, change often paves the way for new opportunities that we may not have envisioned otherwise. “The best kind of change comes when you envision, initiate and control it. That type of change creates opportunities, transforms companies and ignites growth” (Rose Fass, CEO of fassforward). Leadership is crucial in the process of change in order to steer others in the appropriate positive direction. The direction of change through leadership is what guides an organization to succeed. Everyone knows that change is not easy; but having a leader that embraces the change, is understanding of the challenges to come, and is able to get everyone else onboard, will create a smooth process of change into a more successful future. “Genuine leaders get everyone else to buy in by diving headfirst into the cause and never asking anyone to do anything they wouldn’t do themselves” (Fass).

Sometimes it is difficult to look at something in a positive light when we are in the midst of being forced to change something that is outside our comfort zone. However, there are ways to manage change so that it is not so disruptive to our lives and jobs.

First, gather the FACTS that you know to be true. Facts are the objective, provable, and verifiable things that you can see and hear. For instance, if you have heard ‘rumors’ that a merger is going to take place and people will lose jobs, be sure to verify to the best of your ability the exact facts before exploding into an unjustified emotional reaction -- even if that emotional reaction is just inside your head. Facts are not always pleasant, but we each may interpret the facts differently based on our life experiences and how we feel the change will impact us individually.

We then have a choice on how we are going to react to those facts and our interpretation of what the change means to us. Sometimes this reaction can be very emotional. But if we keep the desired ends in mind and what this might look like to us, we can plan out the best way to deal with the change.

Whether you are an aircraft maintenance technician, or in a leadership position, or in any profession, in any organization or company, or even in just in your personal life, changes will always occur. However, it is imperative to take on a leadership role and look at the impending change from a pragmatic (sensible) and systematic outlook. This is not only for the benefit of the organization, but it is more importantly for our own positive growth, well-being and for the ease of guiding and transitioning those around us.

About the Author

Christine Hill

Christine Hill, executive vice president and co-founder of ServiceElements, has been in teaching, facilitating, and coaching for 30+ years. She has a Master’s in psychology/education from Northern Arizona University and is passionate about helping organizations, teams, and individuals with development of human interaction skills.