Yesterday SINTO ran a seminar on Managing Change. The course looked at the nature of change and how people react to it, definitions of change management and the skills required to manage change, models and theories of change in organisations, tools for planning the process of change, understanding how people respond to change and how to decrease resistance to change.
The fifteen delegates from libraries of all types across the SINTO region gave a very high rating to the course and the trainer Peter Lumley. But the information received was only part of the benefit of the course. For almost all the delegates this was not an academic learning exercise. They were faced by real change that they were having to manage. The course gave them knowledge and tools but it also provided an opportunity away from the workplace to think about the issues. One delegates described this as "headspace". It also gave them the opportunity to meet librarians from other organisations who were dealing with similar issues.
What impressed me about the delegates was the very professional way in which they as middle managers were dealing with a difficult situation. Most of the change they are facing results from an underlying financial imperative - they have to make "efficiency savings" or cuts by another name. The changes that arise from this may have real benefits for their users but because of this context front line staff are likely to be very cynical of claims that this change is a good thing and therefore very resistant to it. The middle managers may well share this cynicism but they are the filling in the sandwich. They are responsible to their senior managers for implementing the change and have a responsibility to their staff to convince them that the change is beneficial. All the delegates wanted to do the best for their users, their libraries and their staff while at the same time fighting against the cuts.
I am always interested in what happens when the delegates get back to their workplaces. Most organisations have a formal report back for staff who have been on a course as part of their CPD process but does the line manager take time to discuss the issues raised on the course? Is the organisation prepared to learn any lessons itself? Somehow I doubt it!