I wanted to share an experience I had (way back when) in high school. It was one of those times that change was inevitable, yet impacted me tremendously. I was in the acting department all four years of high school. During senior year, the school fired the director that we had for years. We already had our traditions, schedules, and shows in place. We were accustomed to the way we would rehearse, audition, celebrate, etc.
Once we got word that we’d be getting a new director, we panicked. What would happen to our traditions and relationships that meant so much to us? What if the new director disliked the way we have been doing things? To confirm our fears, he came in, and I can’t think of one factor that wasn’t altered or entirely changed. He came in and tore down our green room, revamped our auditioning process, created new exercises (that became requirements), and even changed some of our plays. It was a gut-wrenching change that instilled fear every time he made a decision.
Though we were beyond resistant in a “state of equilibrium” (Burke 2011, p. 291) to his new alterations and plans, we didn’t have much choice but to follow and comply. Ultimately, he created a newer, more powerful drama department. I found out years later; they built a large, advanced theater because his department was growing and becoming very successful. He turned the “organization” into something we never thought it would be.
During the change, he seemed to be open to our ideas, which follows the “reciprocal understanding,” as explained by Pless and Maak (Pless and Maak 2004, p.133), but remained firm on his opinions and desires. He cared for us, but also followed through with what he felt was best. He didn’t back down, yet he was still compassionate and understanding. He was skilled at explaining the changes and showing us the outcome. He explained to us his reasoning for changing our traditions, and once results were visible, he’d share them with us (increased sales, growing audience, city-wide newspaper inclusions, etc.). These improvements proved the school’s decision to change directors and start a new program, which Burke proves to be the main purpose of launching new initiatives (Burke 2011, p. 295).
If I were an OD professional at that time, I’d ask him to be sure that he was open to all past and future traditions or ideas. I’d sit down and help him complete research and testing that focused on change in ticket sales, student satisfaction, schedule, and even performance. How would his changes influence these main focal points in the class?
Once I sent an old friend a text, they were ecstatic and very gracious about the time I took to think of them and express my gratitude.
Burke, W. W. (2011). Organization change: theory and practice (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
Pless, N., & Maak, T. (2004). Building an inclusive diversity culture: Principles, processes, and practice. Journal of Business Ethics, 54(2), 129-147.