Change management, revolutionizing the business world from the inside out

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Change is a hard thing to implement in any work environment. The larger the organization and the the more deeply ingrained the culture, the more likely there will be resistance to and misunderstandings about the purpose of the changes that are taking place.

However, change is progress and, no matter what, organizations of all sizes must evolve to keep up with an increasingly dynamic world.

What if you could be at the forefront of this evolution? What if you could be a part of this process that moves an organization forward?

Heather Corra spent a year in what is known as change management while she worked as a change agent with the B.C. Public Service.

Change management is any activity that facilitates change. It exists in some shape or form in any organization, but it is becoming more and more common to have people specifically dedicated to to this task. As companies get bigger and bigger, there are more factors to consider when implementing change.

Corra said her role involved a great deal of communication, as she and her team met with various units across the company. “We did a lot of public speaking” and they “engaged with other work units, got to know them and their business and different challenges they were facing.”

This helped them prepare for and understand people’s reactions to change, and collect information to take to the teams most closely associated with change activities such as human resources, recognition and rewards, and sometimes those in charge of implementing new technology.

“We would go over and talk to the people that were running recognition and rewards and ask, ‘OK, if we’re rewarding people this way are we truly rewarding them for acting and embracing the kinds of values that we want them to?’” she said.

Training isn’t always required to be a change agent, but there are courses available. Corra was finishing up a her bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Victoria and needed two more courses after returning from an exchange program in Hong Kong. She decided to do distance education at Thomson Rivers University and came across some change management courses that piqued her interest. A career advisor suggested she take them.

“I think that it’s something I could see becoming a lot bigger in the future.” She said she thinks that strong communication skills are a huge advantage, as well as an interest in human behaviour.

“You really have to be able to step out of your own shell and not judge people based on how they react to change,” she says. “Try to accept who they are and figure out why they’re reacting to things the way that they are.”

Corra was hired for the change agent role internally, but coincidentally happened to have done one of her final projects on change in the B.C. Public Service, so she submitted that as part of her application. “If you’re given the opportunity to pick an organization to do a project on,” she said, “pick one that you think you might want to work for one day because it’s a way of standing out.”

The most rewarding and challenging aspects of Corra’s job were one and the same: changing people’s minds.

On the one hand, she said, “I just found it really rewarding to know that someone in the room you thought was the most against what you were suggesting, ended up being the person that really took the most away from it.”

She said that in spite of the frustration, the people who resist change, “their job isn’t to enact change, they have a whole separate job they need to carry out and sometimes you’re asking them to take on additional responsibilities.” She said it doesn’t make anyone a bad person; it’s a very natural reaction to change.

Corra has since moved on to become a communications strategist after returning from a brief stint as one of the hosts of the Olympic torch relay, but she said she enjoyed her change management experience. “If you work for a large organization, even if you work for a small organization, you’ve probably done change management work without even realizing it.”

If communication, psychology and progress appeal to you, this could be your field.

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About the author

Mira Saraf studied psychology and English at McGill University. When she graduated, she wanted to pursue journalism but somehow ended up working in Montreal's garment industry. From there, she moved to New York to attend FIT. She worked there for a year before moving back to Toronto to work for Winners. Two and a half years in she took over a year off to pursue writing education and a career in freelance writing. She has since returned to the industry and now works for Loblaw/Joe Fresh. She continues to write on a part time basis.