It starts with tremors and before you realise what is happening, the ground starts shaking violently under your feet and there you are in the middle of a major seismic activity hanging on for dear life to your seat. Hold on – I am not talking about cyclones, tsunamis or earthquakes of the natural kind. I am referring to the ground-shaking encountered during organizational structure changes. If you have ever worked in the corporate world, you know the kind I mean…. A quarter or two of underperformance and you can almost guarantee that the phrase “need for change” starts appearing in management communication. Unfortunately, this drive for the need for change usually does not focus on looking at the customer value creation, the business strategy or the execution gaps. The target is usually a few leaders and some shuffling of positions and responsibilities here and there at the top levels and maybe an acquisition – all under the banner “organizing for success”.

That’s all good (actually not, this is shifting the problem elsewhere and maybe creating a new set of problems but it’s a topic for another day) but in a hierarchical organization which majority of orgs are still – this is very unsettling for all the layers of people below. And given that org changes are the norm and hiding under your seat or the blanket at home till the dust settles down in the hope that things will turn out ok in the end could be an option, there is a better option as well and that is – to Be Prepared.

I consider myself a veteran at this org change business having gone through some 25 odd organization transitions in my career – some of which I just about survived and some in which I thrived. So here is my checklist of tips on coming out a winner in such transitions:

Tip #1 – Be an Intrapreneur: No matter which layer or function you are in the structure, always be a leader.  The security of a good job in a big company often brings in a sense of complacency.  In today’s scenarios, this complacency is very very risky for your career. If you were an entrepreneur or working in a startup, what would you be doing? Hustling everyday, that’s what – because what exists today might not exist tomorrow. So bring in that hustle factor into your job everyday – work for today. As Jim Rohn said – work harder on yourself than you do on your job or business.  Be an intrapreneur – an entrepreneur within your organisation. My mentor, Entrepreneur David K Williams, shared the four essential traits of an intrapreneur – read here. Do your best work and keep yourself relevant and you become sure of yourself and the fear of changing bosses, changing teams, changes at workplace will not be a fear anymore.

Tip#2 – Be Visible:  Doing great work and no one other than your immediate boss and your team knowing about it is not going to help you when your boss changes or your team changes. Much as you may hate the idea of it, you have to promote yourself. As I have written in one of my earlier posts, this was a hard-earned lesson for me. I had always believed that my work will speak for itself and rewards may be delayed but will never be denied. But then, who knows what tomorrow may bring? You cannot afford to be shy if you want your work to be recognized.  Be aware of your worth and don’t settle for less. You have to be your own marketing manager and actively market the value that you bring in to your manager, department and organization. Make sure people know who you are and what you do. Make your achievements and contributions visible as and when they happen and not just list them at appraisal time.

Tip #3 – Help Others: The single most important thing that you can do for your career is to help others in their careers. Read that line again – it is true. In life or in work, what you give is what you get. Its extra work I admit but the benefits far outweigh the efforts. I have always held the belief that real assets that we build at work are the relationships – you don’t lose these when you switch jobs or lose jobs. All the career advice about having a strong network around you is right – but it starts with an attitude of helping, of giving. Be the go-to person – be the first person that people around you think of when there is an issue to be resolved or a problem to be solved. You become an asset for your boss, your team and you company. And being an asset gives you plenty of leverage during an organizational transition – it gives you the negotiating power to tap the opportunities that the transition may bring.,

Tip #4 – Collect Mentors: A good mentor is invaluable for your career success. A mentor can be someone in your corner when you need some additional support. And if you have one within the company, she can protect you when things go wrong, propose you for great assignments and be your own internal reference. Look around you to find people who you admire and are role models for where you want to be. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. You might look to one for domain expertise, to another for industry expertise, and yet another for personal scenarios when you need practical and helpful advice or brainstorming. And if you are lucky to find a great mentor, invest in that relationship and make sure that you too offer support when your mentor needs it.

Tip #5 – Be Aware: Of the work that you do, of your worth, of the games around you and of what is right. This Career Manifesto by Michael Wade says it all:

1. Unless you’re working in a coal mine, an emergency ward, or their equivalent, spare us the sad stories about your tough job. The biggest risk most of us face in the course of a day is a paper cut.

2. Yes, your boss is an idiot at times. So what? (Do you think your associates sit around and marvel at your deep thoughts?) If you cannot give your boss basic loyalty, either report the weasel to the proper authorities or be gone.

3. You are paid to take meaningful actions, not superficial ones. Don’t brag about that memo you sent out or how hard you work. Tell us what you achieved.

4. Although your title may be the same, the job that you were hired to do three years ago is probably not the job you have now. When you are just coasting and not thinking several steps ahead of your responsibilities, you are in dinosaur territory and a meteor is coming.

5. If you suspect that you’re working in a madhouse, you probably are. Even sociopaths have jobs. Don’t delude yourself by thinking you’ll change what the organization regards as a “turkey farm.” Flee.

6. Your technical skills may impress the other geeks, but if you can’t get along with your co-workers, you’re a litigation breeder. Don’t be surprised if management regards you as an expensive risk.

7. If you have a problem with co-workers, have the guts to tell them, preferably in words of one syllable.

8. Don’t believe what the organization says it does. Its practices are its real policies. Study what is rewarded and what is punished and you’ll have a better clue as to what’s going on.

9. Don’t expect to be perfect. Focus on doing right instead of being right. It will simplify the world enormously.

10. If you plan on showing them what you’re capable of only after you get promoted, you need to reverse your thinking.

 So what do you think? What tip did I miss? Tell me your story – I would love to hear and learn from you.

Pic Courtesy:  Scott Adams – http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1997-11-22/


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    • Suchitra Mishra
    • January 13, 2014

    Hello James,

    Sorry for the delay in responding – I had missed your comment. I agree with you and have experienced the same. The saying – within every challenge, lies an opportunity – may be trite but like most sayings is definitely true.


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    • Tapanesh Sahu
    • November 26, 2013

    So very correctly timed post Suchitra. Correctly pointed out by Redge (in his comments) about ACE. Now we got to see if we have these qualities in us to survive the storm.


    • Suchitra Mishra
    • November 24, 2013

    Dear Redge,

    Thank you for your excellent insights. I absolutely agree with you on all your points. There is a need for introspection and careful planning in the business world more than usual. There is also enough case studies to prove that management needs to look at people as appreciating assets than the first line of cost cutting targets.

    Loved your acronym ACE and I think this sums up the message of my post very well.
    I look forward to reading your post on Change management – am sure I will find it very useful in my line of work too.

    To all my readers interested in Lean Execution and Intelligent Metrics – drop in at the Versalytics site – http://leanexecution.wordpress.com/ – a wealth of practical resources there for you.


    • Redge
    • November 24, 2013

    As one who has been tasked on many occasions to re-organize and turn around a company, I can appreciate the advice that’s offered here. In my experience, constant communication is the single most important element to execute a successful re-organization effort.

    To steal a line from one of my soon to be released posts, “Resistance to change evolves from an immunity to thinking and doing things differently.” Success breeds contentment and statements like “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broke.”

    In Business, there is no finish line – only what’s next. A company without a vision or over-arching purpose is doomed to fail. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Numerous companies here in Ontario, Canada, have closed their doors to move business elsewhere or quit altogether. BlackBerry is the most recent example of a company that is struggling for survival.

    As such, the greater concern is understanding how we got here. Simply changing “people” and “responsibilities” does little if there is no accountability for the current state of affairs. Understanding WHY change is necessary (other than negative trends) is critical to ultimately change the culture to one that fosters and embraces change as an everyday event.

    Executing a “due diligence” exercise is not just about numbers, its also about the company culture. I always find it interesting to read how “people are our greatest asset” and yet, they are usually the first to be targeted in a re-organization. In my experience, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Those with the right Attitude, Character, and Enthusiasm (ACE’s) usually survive the storm.

    Excellent post Suchitra, always a pleasure to read your thoughts and insights.

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