How My Wife Taught Me About Change Management

May 29, 2023

“Hey, wasn’t the piano there when I left?” I asked that question when I walked past the dining room. I quickly followed with, “Weren’t those shelves in the bedroom?”

My wife sent me to the grocery store. I had not been gone long. By the time I returned home, she and our sons had moved the piano, moved a side table, removed the books from the shelves, and moved the shelves from the bedroom to the dining room. This was clearly a planned project.

My wife tends to rearrange furniture around holidays. She has done this for as long as we have been married. She has always liked to change the arrangement. 

Her tendency to rearrange was foreign to me when we first married. My parents never moved furniture. Once something was in place, it stayed that way forever (or at least until they replaced the furniture).

I was a practicing attorney at a large law firm before I met my wife. Although I had just started as a new associate at the firm, I was already deeply entrenched in the well-recognized attorney mentality against change. 

As a change-resistant lawyer, the first several times my wife suggested rearranging furniture, I fought hard on behalf of the status quo. My wife quickly learned to wear me down by suggesting a proposed change long before a holiday. She knew I would resist, so she raised the idea and then noted my objections for the next conversation. 

She would then mention her idea several more times before the holiday. Each time she discussed her proposal, she would be armed with new reasons why the new arrangement would be superior to the current configuration. 

Whenever she brought up her ideas, she backed them up with reasons I would like the new better than the old. By the time the holidays happened, I would be out of objections and usually convinced that I would like the change. 

After rearranging, my wife would check in to see if I approved the changes. Despite my initial reluctance, I almost always favored the new configuration. Occasionally, based on my feedback, we would make minor changes to improve on the improvement.

My wife was training me to handle change management without me knowing it. At the law firm, we did things a certain way and did not often deviate from the standard process. But when I went in-house at a medical device company, change management immediately became a way of life. At the company, continuous process improvement was expected, even in the legal department. Change became a constant and eventually something I craved instead of resisted. 

Lessons My Wife Taught Me:

1.     Communicate Early: Start the process of communicating the upcoming change long before any change will occur. Set the groundwork for the change and ease those who will be impacted by the change into acceptance of the forthcoming improvements will impact.

2.     Communicate the Why: Simply explaining the upcoming changes is not enough. You need to explain why the change is happening. Most importantly, you need to explain how the change benefits the individuals who will be impacted by the change. People are not likely to adopt a new system or process unless they understand how the changes will improve their lives.

3.     Communicate Often: One or two announcements about a change are generally insufficient. Reminders about the future benefits before and during the change process are often necessary to reinforce the value of the pending changes.

4.     Communicate After: Check in after the change to see if the change has been an improvement. Find ways to improve on the improvement (additional training, process adjustments, configuration changes) based on feedback from those impacted by the change.