I started my business five years ago mostly because I got tired of commuting and being “out of control” of my fate in the company by which I was employed. You see, after experiencing layoffs personally and witnessing friends in the same situation, I learned that no matter how skilled or personable you are nor the amount you produce, a “captive” employee is every bit as dispensable as a contractor or consultant. We’re all a commodity and fickle winds of the economy determine our fate. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.
If we care to recognize the signs, we often have a good idea that our situation is going to change before it does. Everyone that I’ve talked with can point to warning signs that they cared not to acknowledge when they arose. It seems that hindsight is indeed 20-20.
As a consultant, it is in my best interest to look for those warning signs so that I can prepare my business for their impact. With the media’s current feeding frenzy over the economic changes, it is no surprise that I’m getting a little nervous. I’ve talked to several other consultants, contractors, and even captive employees who are starting to get an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomach.
The purpose of this post is not to raise an alarm that our industry is going to be negatively impacted by our economy that is in a state of flux. I hope otherwise. But the interests of my company and those in my employ urge me to be sensitive to any and all warning signs. As professionals, we need to look for what lies ahead in our careers, and plan accordingly.
When discussing this issue with a colleague, it was recommended that I read John Kotter’s Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions. It’s a small book, complete with pretty pictures and large type scattered throughout. And best of all, it’s an enjoyable fable about penguins.
As much as I liked the presentation and the story line, my eyebrows raised at what I expected to be just another motivational book. Kotter more than delivered as he spun a tale about how a group of penguins discovered that their home on the iceberg was melting and how they handled the situation.
The underlying tenet to the story is what Kotter calls the 8- Step Process of Successful Change:
Set The Stage
- Create a Sense of Urgency
- Pull Together the Guiding Team
Decide What To Do
- Develop the Change Vision and Strategy
Make It Happen
- Communicate for Understanding and Buy in
- Empower Others to Act
- Produce Short-Term Wins
- Don’t Let Up
Making It Stick
- Create a New Culture
After making my way through this quick read, I was happy to have it on my bookshelf. It is one of those books that make you feel good while making you think. Kotter gets your mind drafting a plan of action throughout the pages.
I was glad to have the book on the desk waiting for a closer look. On the day I finished the book, I consulted with a client on a project and was greeted with “We’ve been told not to talk to you, call my boss to find out what’s up.”
In that moment, I realized that my iceberg can indeed implode at any time. And, while fortunately, my subject matter expert was mistaken and “was” supposed to work with me; the incident has let me know that the stage is set for my company to make a change. And as I pursue other contracts and work to strengthen this relationship, my company is poising itself to create a new culture as we evolve from a fledgling business into our next growth stage.
Whether you’re on stable ground, noticing the winds of change, or in the midst of a change, you’ll enjoy reading this book. While it’s not a “how-to” book with step-by-step guidelines, you will benefit from reading it.