Learning Best in a Storm of Change – By Becky Querido and Erin Anderson
“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm” – Willa Cather
A hurricane and a blizzard
When Langara College moved its operations off-campus and online in March 2020, we were just 10 weeks in from our launch of our new HR and Financial system, Workday.
In some ways, this was lucky – the College’s previous paper-based processes would have been near impossible to complete working remotely – but in other ways, it added a tremendous amount of pressure at a critical point in the Workday transition for our faculty and staff. Additionally, our new Operational Excellence department responsible for the transition to and sustainment of Workday formed just prior to the implementation, leaving us with very little time to come together as a team to support the adoption of a system many of us were just learning.
Weathering the storm
As is common with storms of change, fires break out. On some days, it felt like we were trying to train the firefighters while putting out the fires. Despite our challenges, our growing team has managed to weather the storm through focusing on relationship building, appreciating each other, and continuous improvement.
Building our house on solid foundation (relationship building)
Being a new department at the College, it was a challenge to develop a presence and build awareness of our role. This was complicated by some high frustration over Workday and change fatigue, which our incoming team found themselves facing when hosting drop-in events or providing training and support. Some members of our community felt Workday was oversold, and there were some large change impacts that only surfaced post-launch. Our secret weapon became listening. Listening is what earned people’s trust and showed them we were invested in supporting them and valued their feedback. Like building a house on rock, building a solid foundation of relationships was key to helping ensure we weren’t blown away by the wind.
Staying warm (appreciating each other)
In a storm, sometimes you just need to cozy up next to a fire and try to stay warm. While Langara wasn’t ready to celebrate Workday yet, it was important that the team keep their spirits up. In our first 12 months, the team managed thousands of interactions – some of which were very difficult – but our team was able to hold on because of how each member supported each other. Whether it was through jokes over virtual coffee or the kudos agenda item in our weekly meetings, we found time to connect and comfort each other, even at our busiest.
Renovating the house (continuously improving)
Continuous improvement also remained a theme from Day One. Explaining to faculty and staff that Workday would be an evolving system and that we had an opportunity to revisit and renovate our practices was important. As Peter Drucker is famously known for saying “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” With so many of our team new to College, a benefit was that they were able to bring a fresh set of eyes to our college’s practices and were able to ask meaningful questions. Through trials and experimentation, we were able to get to the root of some common issues and, in some cases, deliver some quick wins to improve user experience and increase adoption.
Next Destination: Moving from Storming to Norming to Performing
Today, we use a new metaphor for where our team is at: we are remodeling the plane while we are flying it. The team has come a long way since Workday launched and we moved to working remotely. We’ve formed strong connections to each other as well as with other departments and people at Langara. We’re focused on making sure we’re moving in the right direction, even if only a small distance at a time. We pay attention to changes in our environment and adapt to them to keep things flying smoothly .
In the coming year, we will be continuing our work and beginning plans for the next leg of our Workday journey, Workday Student, while building our organizational change management and process improvement capability. There is no doubt that there will still be times of turbulence ahead, but we are confident that it is nothing our flight crew can’t navigate.