Changing Change…

I found time this week to sort through some of my old slide decks. This was partly because I am presenting at a Conference next week and needed to finalise my talk, and partly because I wanted to. Although all the slides were in My Documents folder on my laptop….they were all over the place.

The unintended consequence was that I ended up looking at some of those old decks in much more detail than I had planned. An activity that proved to be enjoyable and stimulating on many levels – how much my style has changed; how much the decks reminded me of what we were doing, and who with, at the time; and how much change there has been.

This extent of change struck me partly because of the variety of projects, people, portfolios and processes on which I had presentations, but also because of the number of decks I had that simply talked about Change. I had slides on the change curve, change switch, change management, change agility, change communication, change systems, change fatigue, change resistance, change resilience and change skills…to name but ten!

All of these change words and pictures made me wonder. I have always thought of myself as someone who copes well with change…sometimes I have even gone so far as believe that I enjoy change. Really? We will see. I know for sure that one way or another I have more change rushing towards me at pace, and maybe more significant change than I have faced before.

I find that coping with change often involves coping with ambiguity and uncertainty. My sense is that these words describe very different aspect of change. A situation would be ambiguous if we can interpret – or view – it more than one way. A situation full of uncertainty is one that creates a sense of doubt. Uncertainty is an individual experience – it’s a perception we have about a situation we are experiencing.

Maybe this then is part of a way to cope with change – avoid any feeling of doubt. Or perhaps, more specifically, focus energy on areas and aspects of which we are certain. For example, I have no doubt – indeed I am completely certain – that I will be working in the pharmaceutical industry at the end of 2012. I know that I will be working with superb colleagues doing outstanding science and making significant impact on projects.  

My approach to ambiguity is to seek to clarify the situation I am in or – again more specifically – to clarify the options available associated with the situation I am in. And this would also be consistent with why I value the input and opinions of others as much as I do. I have my own views and opinions of a situation…of my situation…but what do others see? What do they think could, or will, happen.

And last but not least this would also be consistent with the choices I make about people I engage with, or look to, at times of change. I seek out colleagues who are intrinsically positive. I seek out colleagues who look for good; colleagues who are excited by change and colleagues who can provide positive context. I look for colleagues who energise and inspire me.

We all cope with change. It is in our nature. Maybe in reality when we observe someone who copes well with change we are really saying that these people help us cope better with change. They help us to see opportunity.

I like the idea that I cope well with change. I much prefer the idea that I can help others through change.

Cheers

Steve

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About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 29 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 9 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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8 Responses to Changing Change…

  1. Steve,

    I think the key thing to remember is that in your previous roles when you made those slide decks, you were one of the ones creating the change; perhaps even the architect of it. Nevertheless, you had a voice in identifying the need for change and creating the changed, improved system. Those beneath you may not have even agreed with the necessity for change and certainly had no say in creating the changed state. They had to “cope” with change, not lead it or create it. You managed and coached them through that process. Actually coping with change yourself is a different skill than helping others.

    Think of the simple difference in language between “coping with change” and “managing change.” They’re actually different skills and approaches. One copes with adversity that is imposed against our will and control. One copes with a diagnosis of a terminal disease. Managing something implies much more action and at least the illusion of control. One manages a budget or resources to get the best outcome. They key difference between the verbs, at least to me, is the attitude of the actor. And that is what’s important.

    Keep writing!
    -Dave

  2. John McCall says:

    Change gives new options. Sometimes that is good. New opportunities for the lucky. When your life flashes before your eyes, you want to be sure that it is worth watching.

    • Steve Street says:

      John

      I quite like the idea that there is a connection between size of change, size of challenge and size of opportunity. The bigger the first the bigger the last!

      Cheers

      Steve

      p.s. And hopefully you and I both are someway from the ‘life flashing’ moment!

  3. Simon Dales says:

    Steve

    I always feel like I need to make a comment about ‘too much change’ at this point. I think somehow, somewhere along the line ‘change’ has become important for its own sake, too tied up in personal goals and not always aligned to the business need. In the Pharma business, it can take a project 10 years to get to registration – if you stop it and start another one, nothing will ever get to the finish line – you will guarantee failure. You will be managing and implementing change magnificently however!!

    Does a farmer sow a field and then dig it up 2 weeks later and sow a new one? Perhaps someone told him that potatoes were a good crop but then the commercial advice changed and carrots were likely to produce a better price. But it is the wrong soil and the wrong season. Nevermind, buy some products to change the soil type and invest in some polytunnels. Watch them grow – oh no, a carrot glut, our new commercial advisor says cabbages!! Let me help you through your change curve…..

    Forbes carried a recent article on the ‘real cost’ of finding a new mediciine – upto $12BB!! These costs were made up of the failures as well as the ones that made it. However, looking at the numbers, not that many had actually ‘failed’ in a technical sense, many had been stopped for portfolio/commercial/restructuring reasons etc. I’m sure all these individual decisions looked great in isolation and were well intended to change the business for the better, but looking back in many cases not changing and just carrying on and ending up with a product may have been the better course of action.

    Drug Discovery is simple(!) – find a target that will work, find a compound, get the data. But you will need time and a steady hand on the tiller as the storms blow over. That initiation of a project decision is therefore really critical – get it right and stick to it and you will be fine. Get it wrong or change after you start and you will fail. Too much change can be as bad as no change.

    Cheers

    Simon

    ps I actually love change too

    • Steve Street says:

      Simon

      Great to hear from you and really excellent commentary. Many thanks.

      I wonder if a slight variation on the analogy would be that a different farmer comes in after 2 weeks and digs everything up and re-sows? Either way the analogy is valid. And yes that Forbes article was quite eye-opening/jaw-dropping wasn’t it.

      Cheers

      Steve

  4. Hi Steve

    A refreshing start to the week – and your reflection on the slide decks reminded me of the saying:

    “The only thing constant in life is change”
    ― François de La Rochefoucauld

    However, I wonder if the change you foresee is just more of the same (ie ‘working in pharma by the end of 2012’) or whether there is an opportunity here to really embrace the change and try new things?

    As someone who loves and thrives on change, I know how easy it is to get ‘stuck in a rut’ of familiarity to the detriment of unleashing some real creativity!

    Good luck with your journey along the ‘change curve’ – I will follow your journey with interest!

    Best wishes

    Louise

    • Steve Street says:

      Louise

      Hello there and great to hear from you – many thanks. That’s a great quote and so apt. I also don’t think it’s easy for us to realise just how adept any of us have become at – not just – coping with change – but exceeding though change.

      Well spotted on that line about ‘end 2012’ – my addendum would be that ‘working in pharma’ has a much wider meaning than it would have done only a few years ago…and also opens a wider opportunity than the same sentence would have implied if it had read ‘working in big Pharma’…

      Cheers

      Steve

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