How to Survive a Re-org

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How to Survive a Re-org

A few years ago, I worked for large, global company near Portland, that is well-known for its products and ubiquitous logo. One day, we were told that headwinds in the economy (remember 2009, everyone?) meant there would be a company-wide reorganization soon. For several months we watched as our leaders went missing in all manner of secret meetings. Meanwhile, the rest of us were left to speculate about who would still have jobs when this was all over.
Fast forward a few months and our fate was known. My department was completely dissolved and some of my peers were walked out the door. The rest of us were left to pick up the pieces: some with exciting new jobs, some in roles they didn’t want, and most of just thankful to be there at all.

I got “lucky” and was offered an exciting, new job. No one else in the company had a role like it> If the company had posted the job, they probably wouldn’t have given me an interview. It felt exciting, scary, and like a huge vote of confidence.  And, I had no idea what I would actually do.

My new boss and the CIO told me several times in the days after the reorg, that my new role was one of the most broad and demanding.  After a while, I told them to stop saying that; it was starting to freak me out.  And through that, a steely determination kicked in for me. I moved from being excited and somewhat fearful to motivated, engaged, still somewhat fearful, and moving forward.

The world is changing – faster and faster and organizations are changing along with it.  Changing consumer demands and technology will only continue to accelerate the pace. Research from Deloitte shows that over 80% of companies see reorganization as a top priority over the next 2 years.

If you haven’t been through a reorg yet and work for a mid-to-large company, you probably will experience one sometime soon.  We specialize in reorgs and have found several key things you can do to survive and thrive when a reorg happens to you.

1) Remember that regardless of your position, all leadership starts with you.Don’t just wait for your leaders to tell you what to do. Ask questions, be resourceful, and begin to make sense of it all. Big changes are often driven by a dramatic, strategic shift. Don’t be surprised if your manager doesn’t know what it all means yet either. Be curious, take some initiative, help move things forward!

2) Remember that the people who bring the most value, lean in and say yes the most often.  They say yes to the uncertain, yes to getting started, yes to possibly making mistakes, and yes to what could be. If you haven’t already done so, join their ranks.

3) Help yourself, help others. We don’t all handle change the same way.  As you start to move forward and create some clarity, hope, and optimism, you may be on your own for a spell. Help others create an anchor point, or throw them a life jacket.  Even having a little sense of the known, the positive, or what’s not changed, can be huge. Help your peers, direct reports, and even your boss, to move out of the valley of despair and uncertainty in baby steps toward the future.

4) We get it, all this reorg stuff is messy and might not seem fair. The HR systems may still be out of synch. Your expense report isn’t going to your new boss yet. Some of the “issues” that occur in the aftermath feel like “real world problems” but mostly they are petty annoyances that will get better with patience. Focus on the big picture and the possibilities.

5) Create conversations that are “for” something and not just “about” them.  Find ways to acknowledge where you are (we are only 3 weeks in, so of course we don’t have all the answers yet). Don’t just grumble, gripe. and gossip about what happened. Find some little wins and focus on behaviors and conversation that can create safety, trust, inspiration, and forward momentum.  While it may be called “work” for a reason, the suffering is optional.

At Positive Disruption we specialize in working with companies to reorganize with outcomes that deliver higher levels of engagement, retention, and momentum for results. 

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