Change. No one seems to like it, yet everyone experiences it. Change is as sure as the sunrise and like the sun, we all are touched by it. What I really think we don’t like about change, is that all too often we have no control over it. Change is just seemingly thrust upon us by others or by circumstances. All too often, change brings expectations that we are not sure we can meet. Learning to love change requires new thinking. Focusing on a goal, rather than the potentially unwanted change is key to winning over the naysayers and resisters. Making things better can be a unifying commitment. Merely changing things ‘just because’ usually leads to turmoil.
Identify the Problem
If the need to change is the problem, the change itself becomes a solution. Understanding why something has to be done, encourages people to think about how to do it. Sometimes the why gets so diluted that it becomes hard to explain to anyone. Changes need to be considered carefully. If everyone involved can identify a clear, concise answer as to “why,” the change is viewed as the answer from thoughtful consideration.
A primary reason changes fail is that those affected by the change simply have not been given enough information to process the change. “I don’t know what is happening, no one told us” is a common response to changes. Good communication means both sides contribute to the conversation. Creating allies is always better than commanding actions. Simply saying “we will implement new systems on Tuesday” is not effective communication. Take the time to talk with those who will be involved to consider their concerns. Be open to their suggestions and ideas. Ask them how to be successful rather than telling them what will happen. Not only will you show that you value their perspective, they may bring up considerations you had missed.
Allies become great ambassadors. Kitchen staff understand the culture of the school. The school personnel know them and consider them one of their own. They know who has to be in the loop for success. Get their input about the best day to begin a new program, what teachers would be the best to pilot programs or which menu items would provide more time to concentrate on a new program. Consider them the experts in their school and let them be the ambassadors to the school. If they can explain the reason for change and be an advocate of change, then the new program is coming from within, not from outside.
There are usually different ways to get to the same end point. Provide some latitude for the staff to determine which way is best, fastest, or most comfortable for them. Your GPS gives you three different routes to the same destination- shortest, quickest and alternate because unexpected situations occur. If you have discussed other possibilities, when surprises occur, it is easier to take a detour.
Large procedural changes frequently cause the most stress. Positioning the upcoming change as a trial can take some of the pressure off everyone. By not having an expectation on a perfect transition, the focus can be on how to make the change successful. Focus on the process of change rather than perfection. Allowing a small group of ‘beta testers’ to try the implementation first, provides a chance to solidify procedures without upending everyone. If you choose the right people, they will also be the best advocates for the changes. This group will then be a resource able to provide answers to the questions others raise.
Being proactive about change takes out a lot of the pain. In fact, when you work the process intentionally, you may find that change really can be fun. Pretty soon your slogan will truly be:
Written by Lynn Shavinsky
Lynn is the Support Services Manager at Health-e Pro and has been a Food Service Director in three different states. Lynn believes in the important work of Child Nutrition Programs across the country and does all she can to help school nutrition professionals do the best possible job. Training and working with people is what she love most!