Remember the J. Giles tune, Love Stinks?

I’ve been through diamonds

I’ve been through minks

I’ve been through it all

Love stinks

Substitute the word “change” for “love” and this tune then aligns with this post.

My alma mater undergraduate institution, St. Norbert College, has embraced change throughout its 111 year existence. Founded as a school to prepare men for the priesthood, it has evolved to preparing over 500 graduating men and women each year to serve in a variety of global roles. Classrooms were renovated, residence halls built, a dedicated leadership development ropes course created, a new entrance, a new library… Even our beloved icon, a statue of one of founding fathers, Abbot Pennings, was relocated. Now the pictures of kissing the Abbot (or any other pictures with him) are taken in the new library as opposed to outside on a central path.  While perhaps not as much fun, this change does denote a bit more respect for the man while still allowing a time-honored tradition to continue.

Change is good. Change helps us grow. Change helps to keep us from going to hell for doing improper things to the Abbott’s statue (not that I ever did that of course).

Then I read our alumni newsletter and realized… Change Stinks.

The opening article of the newsletter announced the opening of the new Fr. Eugene E. Gries, O.Praem., Residence Hall. Great! I love the change. Love that upperclassmen can live in much better accommodations than the dirty, old, college house I lived in senior year where we would blow a fuse every day with the electric heaters we needed to stay warm; The bad 30-year old purple shag carpet; The floors worn down from a party or two.  No wireless Internet and only two phone jacks that worked with any regularity. The new dorm is a 59,000-square-foot facility, featuring a brick and stone exterior, wireless Internet, cable, utilities, a reflection space… WOW!

I began to visualize this state of the art building and looked to see where it was located. On the river? Where that old parking lot was? Somewhere else in the lovely town of De Pere, WI?

No… it was on the intersection of Third and Marsh Streets. Third and Marsh? Third and Marsh! It can’t be on that block because that is where my house is. Or should I say was? The old heater; the purple shag carpet; the worn down floors. Further, the block of Third and Marsh is also where my husband’s house is/was. Home to a lot of late night tomfoolery, cook-outs, and impromptu hanging out on the porch. We met senior year because we lived next door to each other. We have graduation pictures in front of those homes. We have pictures in my bridal gown and his tux in front of those homes. How could this be?

Should St. Norbert have stopped their growth, development, and change simply because one alumnus (maybe a few more) is sad about losing the decrepit old house? Of course not. Should I be a bit more rational about the demise of the house especially since there were many more negative aspects about it than positive ones? Of course.

But as you think of change efforts within your own organization, remember that what is overlooked most often isn’t the vision, strategy, process, or even communication about the change, but the human side of change. The connection of the change from the perspective of the person impacted by the change (Bunker & Wakefield, 2005). For every four or five people cheering that the new dorm is being built, there will be one or two people in the pipe moving at a slower rate of change acceptance and sad that the house is gone. The leadership challenge is to not ignore those that are slower to accept change, but to connect to the person and their feelings so you can “help individuals in the organization let go, deal with the discomfort, rebuild, and learn” (p.11). Essentially, help me let go to a symbol of my cherished college life.

Change is good. Change helps us grow. But every now and again… Change Stinks!

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