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Book Review – Managing at the speed of change – Sinsath Shameer

by on November 11, 2007

Managing at the speed of change – How resilient managers succeed and prosper where others fail.
By Daryl R. Conner

Daryl Conner is an internationally recognized leader in the field of change management; he serves as a leading advisor and educator to senior executives across the globe. What I liked about this book is that it made me think about the emotional aspects of people involved with a change management situation. It made me ponder over how a person’s behavior can be changed in a certain way to better cope with change and in author’s words “increase resiliency” while being involved with any change that affects you directly or indirectly. The author talks about eight patterns that explain the mystery of change and how managers can use these patterns to increase resiliency in their organization.

As I started reading the book, I liked how it starts with the author talking about his personal experiences as a kid trying to deal with repeated changes because of the frequent relocation of his family and how this was further extended to his adult life and affected his way of thinking. So the theories mentioned in this book are based on the author’s personal experiences, his observations and experiences from people around the globe. His interest in change management led to the formation of his company – Organizational Development Resources, Inc. (ODR) which counsels various companies on organizational change and how to achieve desired results through change. So he seemed to be a credible person with all the immense research he put into this topic throughout his life which also made me want to hear more from this expert and what he proposed about managing change.

The author makes you feel empowered by sharing with you the secrets that successful managers have been using either consciously or unconsciously to manage change. If you use it unconsciously, you cannot guarantee success each time and hence by studying the patterns involved in successful change management, the author provides us with steps that should be used consciously in dealing with change.

Through this book Conner recognizes eight patterns in an effective change management process and provides a clear depiction of each. He makes it apparent that it is not the events of change that confuse and overwhelm us, but the unanticipated implications that these events bring to our lives. The author captures the reader’s interest with certain simple phrases like “people have a fear of the unknown” and hence they fear change which itself is the biggest unknown. This is the explanation that Connor gives for a battered wife to remain in an abusive relationship; she dreads moving out of the relationship more than her current situation which is at least predictable. So even though the target audience for this book is managers at corporations, the examples provided are from all walks of life. This book can hence be used by a variety of people, from someone who wants to learn to better deal with change in their personal lives to an employee who is part of an organizational change.

In one of the chapters the author talks about future shock of change that anyone could easily relate to. It was interesting to know that there is future shock associated with good change as well. These are the feelings of high followed by some level of dissatisfaction when things aren’t the same as it was even though that was what a person had hoped for. Everyone deals with all this in their daily lives, but it was nice to get all these feelings and emotions being validated by the author through authentic research which could make the audience also understand that these are all predictable after events associated with any change and it should not be considered as an isolated condition that a person feels only he has to go through. So once you understand the after effects of the event and if you are not surprised at the surprises that change brings, a person can better prepare himself to manage change and the author depicts this very evidently in the later chapters.

The book has a good flow, uses simple language and talks about change in a way that makes the reader wants to read more. He mentions how resistance to a change can also be used constructively that helps in an efficient change management process. Another interesting theory was his concept of how each individual has a set of assimilation points which represent an individual’s capacity to absorb change and how important it is to understand the limit of one’s assimilation points and to learn to use it wisely. Resilient people apparently learn how to increase the number of assimilation points and how to stay within their personal assimilation budget. He also touches upon how culture and having a synergistic environment contributes to an effective change. These were some of the interesting concepts through which the author generated interest in this book and each of the theories were associated with an example.

On the whole the book was very interesting and the author did a good job relating with the audience. One suggestion that I would give is to make it a bit shorter. The book started with a very interesting note about how we all can learn this magic principle of dealing with a change, but somewhere in the middle of the book, it seemed to be a bit dry with the author over emphasizing the patterns he proposed. After a while, the book again was interesting as the author talked about different personality types and how a person could mould his/her personality to fit certain needs. He basically talks about two personality types – Type D and Type O where each lies in the extreme end of coping with change and how a person can learn to achieve certain characteristics of type O personality to better cope with the change. Here he mentions the five basic characteristics for being more resilient.

The behavioral change that the author suggests to be resilient is not a simple task and to change the behavior of a person takes a massive amount of determination and effort on the part of the person. So unless the person is committed and wants to make a difference in the way he was dealing with change and work the whole of his life, it will be difficult to be resilient and be a successful change management force. I also believe that by at least trying to understand the patterns and the after shock involved in change without having this shift in ones personality could as well make us better prepare for the outcome of the change and the path it follows to deal with it effectively.

I personally was more enlightened after reading this book than the books prescribed for this course. Clear depiction, simple language and theories based on examples and study make this book one of the best books I have read on change management. If we can utilize the suggestions that the author gives in this book, I believe that any change management initiative can be made to turn its course from a badly managed situation to a successful change management process. The author mentions that change is a continuous process and that which shouldn’t be seen in black and white which I totally agree upon as I believe that change is the only constant that keeps changing.

So on the whole what a great read and it captured me totally. I would recommend this book to anyone who might like to explore change management in their professional fields and also to anyone who would want to learn to manage change in their personal life as well because change is a never ending process. If you have learned how to manage change and make change as something that you look forward to, you have learned to solve the biggest mystery ever. Anyone who reads this book would be compelled not to take his principles seriously and even if you don’t it’s worth reading.

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