The Doomsday Domino Effect of Ignoring Change Management

There’s a belief that application is the best form of education. Want to teach someone math? Show them why it’s useful in everyday life. Want to teach someone proper grammar? Show them real life examples and why it’s important.

Well, just a few days ago I got a real life lesson in why good HR—specifically good change management—is so important.

I am a public transportation commuter, more by lack of car than by choice. These daily experiences, dealing with multiple services run by multiple people every day, offer me lots of firsthand insight into how people’s minds work and allow me to analyze the root cause when something goes wrong.

The other day something went wrong.

When I leave my office, the first leg of my commute consists of a shuttle ride that goes from the local Marta station to a few stops through the office parks in the area. Like most services, the shuttle is not perfect, but it is free so I rarely have much to complain about. The first shuttle stop is an office complex where there is major construction occurring currently, and the last stop is office complex across the street from the first stop; my stop is the turnaround point. Due to the construction at stop #1, the shuttle has had to let passengers on and off at a different location than usual in that office complex, however the different location has changed from time to time over the course of construction.

 As I got on the shuttle the other evening, we stopped at the fourth location and then the final one, across the street from the first location. The last person to get on was a woman, clearly out of breath and in a mood. 

‚ÄúYou didn‚Äôt stop at the right place on the first stop!‚Äù she said, incensed, to the shuttle driver.

The shuttle driver immediately came back with, “I stopped where I have been instructed to stop.”

The woman continued, “No, all the other drivers stop on the side closest to the building. I saw you stop right at the entrance and take off.”

And the shuttle driver continued to argue back. The tension elevated until the shuttle driver finally said, “I go where I am told to go and that’s that.”

It was easy to see what had happened. This shuttle driver, a newer employee in the rotation of drivers we see, had obviously been told the pre-construction drop off and pickup location to stop at. Riders were accustomed to a new location, but obviously management of the shuttle company was not clear on where the exact location should be—or else it would be the same for every driver.

Because management at the shuttle company failed to communicate to their drivers how they should alter the route to accommodate the construction, the drivers were taking it upon themselves to do what they each thought was the best solution. However, when you leave it up to fate for everything to iron itself out, all employees are not on the same page.

The lack of change management that the shuttle company has over its route ended up causing strife between the driver and the passenger, neither of which I think can be blamed. The driver was just stopping where she had originally been told, but the passenger was left to scramble across the street in order to make sure she would catch the shuttle when it came around to that side. I don’t fault the passenger for being frustrated with the situation, or the driver for being told off by a passenger for just doing her job.

I blame the shuttle management for not being clear on how the drivers should be performing in light of the changes brought on by the construction. They left it up to their employees to figure out, and in doing so dropped the ball and caused a high-friction situation between employee and consumer. Not the best way to handle change.

All companies go through changes. Whether internal or external catalysts are creating these changes, you should be ready from the top down. Want to learn more about being change agile and getting everyone on board? Check out our BOSS Series on change management, Change Agile, or hit us up‚Äîwe‚Äôd love to talk shop with you.

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