“For neither good nor evil can last for ever; and so it follows that as evil has lasted a long time, good must now be close at hand.” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote.
According to the Kotter 8-step Change model, there are 8 steps needed for a successful change. In the Change Management course I attended this week, the instructor asked if anyone had any big changes in their lives either at home or work, and did it fit into the classic Kotter model. When nobody volunteered, I put my hand up. Our decision to foster another kid who happens to be blind, has lung issues and eating problems seemed to fit. I was asked how.
1. Increase the Urgency – Why change? K needed a home, and we were qualified and capable of providing it. Evidently, there aren’t many such homes. As she needed a home “now,” it doesn’t get more urgent.
2. Build Coalition – There has to be a group with the power and authority who make it happen. For us, the power and authority rests with my wife and me. She presented the idea to me knowing my soft spot for providing for kids whom nobody else is taking care.
3. Get the Vision Right- Often we start with only a rough idea, but a rough idea leads to fragmentation in direction once things begin. So we discussed issues like how long we thought she would stay, what the logistics would be from the start, what we hoped our kids’ roles would be, how this could change their perspective about being adopted, under what conditions we would consider adoption, etc.
4. Communicate for Buy in – Once those with power and authority know exactly what should happen, they need the buy-in from all of the stakeholders which include those who actually live the change. It was at this point we presented the idea to the kids. If they were to be miserable about it, then the change would fail as surely as if either of us had vetoed the plan. As it was, they took to the idea of being big sister and brother who could play with and teach a baby.
5. Enable Action – It’s only at this point, the middle of the process, when the actual change should begin to happen. This is when K came home.
6. Create Short Term Wins – Celebrate all of the small steps along the way. This builds a sense of momentum and allows for positive self feelings from those who do the work. This momentum and sense of “can do” is needed for inevitable set backs. So many times, A has been in charge of watching K to keep her safe, and O has taken to the roll of jester. Both of them love to think of themselves as helping with K. The care of her has become a part of their self identity to the point where when separated for a week to go to Cape Cod, they spoke of her non stop and asked to call home to talk with her. She was so much in their thoughts, I was second fiddle. We praise them for all we see them do for her.
7. Don’t Let Up – This is why you celebrated what went right, to give incentive for people to see themselves succeeding when things are harder. Yes, there are hard times. There are times where J or I will not drop everything to play with them or look at their buildings and drawing because we are changing a diaper or some other such uninterruptable task. The times where they aren’t first when they had been in the past are hard, but they have learned K is a part of our lives until she isn’t.
8. Make it Stick – OK, the change is in place. What do we need to do to make it accepted as “the way things work?” Our kids think of K as their sister even knowing she may go home to her birth family any time the courts decree. They love her, and K knows our whole family’s love.
The change has been made, and all of our self identities morphed. K is a part of how we define ourselves as a family. (note this was posted 1 year and 1 day after she came home to us)
When nobody volunteered any other examples, the instructor said, “Yeah, it would be rather hard to follow that change story.” I suspect these changes and the management of them is a normal process in any family. We who make the decisions, all attempt to manage how they will be perceived. Like so many things in our family, I don’t see any thing earth shatteringly different outside of a couple of medically fragile kids taking on the roll of caring older siblings for a medically fragile baby/toddler.
The change model for us should go beyond this. Chronically ill people often have to make drastic changes in their lives quickly. Sometimes we may be lucky enough to be forced to think about potential changes so that we can make plans for how we will manage change when needed. Maybe we can go through steps 1 through 4, before ever being confronted with the need to go further. Possibly these changes can be made less harsh for all stakeholders. We should know to do things like have a living will and other relevant decisions made before ever there is a need. In this respect, we are lucky. We’ve been warned.
Note on picture below from the end of the first day when we had finished a section on reading body language, don’t call on me with an open question unless you are willing to risk my answer. The question was “What’s going on in this picture?”
“I’m a little tea pot. When I get all steamed up hear me shout. Tip me up and pour me out!”
Did you see something different?