Change management at the top LO1451

David E. Birren, MB/5, 608.267.2442 (
Wed, 31 May 1995 09:19 CST

The learning-org list participants gave me such useful input on my
question last month about horizontal and vertical integration, that I'm
coming back for more. This time it's change management.

Background: This agency has 3,000 people spread out across the state.
The senior management group (which we call Secretary's Staff) comprises
the Secretary and his deputy and executive assistant, six division heads
and six field district directors - 15 in all. The agency has received the
consultant's report on a major reorganization and is beginning to plan for
detailed implementation. (Perhaps not coincidentally, I've recently heard
that these managers are suddenly showing symptoms of job stress, similar
to what we've seen in other staff during the reorganization study.) The
most active implementation group is the change management team, a diverse
work group that has developed a well-rounded set of strategies for helping
supervisors and staff deal with change issues - no small thanks to the
learning-org list, where I've picked up many good ideas and suggestions.

The issue now is: What about the senior managers? Who helps the helpers?

We're beginning to talk about training for these folks, as well as the
idea that they need someone to talk to, just as their staff do. But I see
a few obstacles: (1) they sometimes tend to discount those who lack
"standing" (i.e., hierarchical status); (2) they can be competitive and
have been rumored to form cliques (e.g., central office vs. districts);
(3) they usually listen well to outside consultants, but we're about
broke; and (4) they sometimes appear to take a "we know what we're doing"

So I'd like to ask what you think makes sense here. Has anyone dealt with
this kind of situation? Is there any literature on helping top management
with the emotional issues they face during a major organizational shakeup?

Thanks for whatever you might offer. I have feeling I won't be disappointed...


David E. Birren						Phone: (608)267-2442
Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources			Fax:   (608)267-3579
Bureau of Management & Budget		    Internet:
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"To know, and not to act, is to not know."
--Wang Yang Ming, 9th-century Chinese general