Category Archives: Change Management

Seismic Shifts in Human Resources

We’ve all probably said some version of “our kids/grandkids will be talking about this in History class one day,” which, in my house is met with a response of “OK Boomer.” Nevertheless…

Consider that statement; First, I don’t care how “Boomer” it sounds (and, for the record, I am NOT), this absolutely will be talked about for generations to come. Unless we count that last time we closed the country…oh wait, that never happened. The Black Swan event that made for a good read but would never happen in our lifetime just landed in HR’s lap. And speaking of “History class” – what in the h*ll will THAT look like in 20 years? After 400 years of following the same blueprint for public schooling, we may finally see significant change.

If you have discovered, as we have, that our youngest (15) has days where he can literally complete his daily high school curriculum in the span of an hour, how ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm? Seriously, with a projected timeframe of 12-18 months for a vaccine, do you see helicopter parents letting their kids back in crowded classrooms this September? Or maybe you think 8-year old kids will maintain social distancing guidelines, wash their hands every 20 minutes, and keep a mask on for…hahahaha, sorry I can’t even finish that one.

As the butterfly effect continues, we know many families cannot provide childcare should the new education model stay in place. Or back it up a step and consider the future of childcare – what does that do to the available candidate population? Back it up even further and define your business as “essential” or “non-essential.” What about those new questions soon to appear on the job application, “Have you ever contracted or been exposed to COVID-19?” “Do you own a personal N-95 mask?”

Flap, flap, flap, the wings are still beating.

I made the comment to a friend recently that “I only thought I was in Human Resources before March 16th. THIS is Human Resources.” If your experience was anything like mine, you began a deep dive into Crisis Management, Change Management, Employment Law, Continuity Planning, Communication Planning and Strategic Planning. In one single month’s time we saw the lowest unemployment and highest unemployment ever recorded in America.

Executive Orders, shelter-in-place, stay at home, house arrest, quarantines, furloughs – absolutely none of this resonated with most of us prior to March, 2020. My guess is you’ve now completed a self-education that would rival any Finals Week all-night session comprised of Jolt Cola and No-Doz (shaddap, I’m old, I get it.) There has never been a bigger need for strong leadership and a steady hand – ever.

Current crutch phrase that is wearing itself thin? “This is surreal.” Yep, that sums it up pal, but this isn’t a movie no matter how cinematic and made-for-cable it may appear.

You wanted to be “at the table,” Human Resources? This is it. You’ve heard “With chaos comes opportunity.” This is the opportunity. This is the big chair, the adult swim, the Star Chamber. Your people need you, and they need you NOW. Be brave, be courageous, be empathetic, be bold and over-communicative.

We’re not only “at” the table, we’re sitting in a chair of influence – do something with it.

Kicking The Ant Pile

I think most of us would admit that being a control freak is a frustrating (and ultimately losing) proposition. At work, our ability to “control” things is usually more dependent upon the company cruising on auto-pilot, business as usual, allowing us to have some sense of security in our ability to manage our day. But the reality is that your employer has the same tenuous grasp on control as we do – it’s all situational; it’s an illusion that gives you a false sense of comfort. So what happens when the company is turned on its ear and “business as usual” gets rocked?

In the mood for some social experimentation?

Try this (Texans will truly appreciate this) – go outside, find a fire ant pile and give it a good kick. Note the immediate reaction as 10,000 little creatures scramble madly to action – there’s no plan, they just know it’s time to move, and the structured “pile” now becomes a morass of jumbled, frantic activity. You have just successfully witnessed a metaphor for a company during a crisis. It’s not pretty, there’s no clear direction or goal, and you have a lot of confused creatures running around full of fear and anxiety to the point they may bite each other while seeking the “real” cause of the issue. [Authors note: it’s best not to try this experiment with flip-flops]

The downside of this kind of chaos, of course, is that a crisis usually comes with a price before it turns around. But there is an upside, and believe it or not, there are several revelations that can only come during times of duress.

So there you are, one of the ants in a pile that just got whacked. My Pop had a saying, “You don’t know what’s in a tube until you squeeze it.” As a new company works through a crisis situation, it’s critical that you come to clear & immediate terms with these facts:

  • Things are not the same. To continue to do things the way you always have is tempting fate (yours.) You’re more creative than you know. Have you tried everything? Of course not – times like these are when innovation is born.
  • Despite appearances, you just assumed more control of your career. They don’t hand out medals in times of peace; now is your opportunity to make a significant impact on your career arc.
  • “Strategy” becomes a compromised luxury – your long-range plans need to be truncated to the point of days instead of weeks or months.

And what about the other ants? Yet another benefit of stressful times – You’ll get an unfiltered view of what’s inside the “tube.” Watch, learn, and make a mental note of those who:

  • Run silent, run deep ~ People who do their best to become invisible, hoping to lay low until the crisis is passed.
  • Play politics ~ You know these folks, right? They work as hard passing the buck as they do addressing the situation.
  • Roll with it ~ Ridiculous, right? Not necessarily, but the impact of your attitude during a stressful situation is a proven commodity. Being positive, charging forward, and embracing the opportunity gives you the best chance to succeed. Find others of the same mindset, and there’s no crisis than cannot be overcome.

This is your moment ~ think of the awakening you’ll have as you not only discover more about yourself, but of your colleagues as well.

On May 23, 2017 John Whitaker celebrated Year One with the DentalOne Partners team as Vice President, Talent Acquisition. Based out of the Dallas Corporate Headquarters.  John is responsible for leading the Talent Acquisition & Recruiting strategies and initiatives enterprise-wide.

5 Lessons My House Taught Me About Change Management

This… our house.

On the bright side, we feel a nice breeze in the evenings
                      On the bright side, we feel a nice breeze in the evenings…

This is the view from what used to be the kitchen, looking out towards what used to be our family room, behind which you can see what was once our patio. All of it in demoliton mode. Just to make sure you get the whole story, add to the picture Master bedroom, bathroom, garage, laundry room, and home office. My wife and I are living in my (former) poker room like a couple of new grads in a single-room efficiency.

The contractors targeted end of September as the finish line. Yeah, I know….that means Christmas at the earliest. [Just kidding guys, if it goes that long you won’t need to worry about me, Karen will have buried me in the backyard (and don’t believe the suicide note.)]

Our world, as we know it, has turned upside down.

Metaphor alert….you ready? It’s times like these that test our mettle, right? “Upsetting the apple cart” is more than an inconvenience, it’s also an exercise in change management. Much like a sweeping change, acquisition, or merger in the workplace, the human dynamic is every bit as critical as the procedural dynamic. And in this particular instance, with the walls literally falling in all around me, I can’t help but take comfort knowing we are only exhibiting the predictable behaviors that manifest during times of uncertainty and disruption.

  1. It’s about ME! – Change feels personal; By 7am most mornings, we already have 2 or 3 workers jackhammering, scraping, bracing, bracketing and (eventually) re-building the house. These guys are very much in my space, and God Bless ’em, they’re usually working 12 hours later. But this is about me, right? My routine is different, I don’t know where the hell anything is, there’s dust and dirt everywhere, I walk through the backyard to get to the shower – – it’s like living in Arkansas. And to a person, each of us in the family are voicing our personal gripes, usually (actually always) without considering that “I’m not the ONLY one being affected.” What a difference it makes in your attitude when you start to view things from the perspective of those around you. My wife, for instance, is stuck sharing a bathroom with her filthy husband and two dirtbag sons. Gross.
  2. Share The “End State” – Without the final result in mind, this will be change for the sake of change. Change takes energy – you can channel that energy towards a common goal, or you can burn energy pulling in different directions. You need a North Star to keep you pointed in the right direction, and that takes leadership. In our case, our GC is communicative, responsive, and supportive. At a particularly tough moment during the re-model, he sent pictures of what the finished product would look like – “light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. A small message, but it carried great impact.  Without a clear vision these nights in captivity would be much more stressful. Even my wife has her “idea boards” with photographs of beautiful kitchens, bedrooms, family rooms., etc. These images, even if only dreams, create a picture of what will be.
  3. When People Get Squeezed, You Find Out What’s Inside ~ Change, especially significant change, can apply the kind of pressure that brings out the ugly in people. Pushed out of your comfort zone, put into a different environment, and being put into close quarters can cause friction, finger-pointing, and ultimately – a loss in productivity. My wife has OCD tendencies that largely go unnoticed – until we’re stuck in a 15 x 15  room that acts as a bedroom, office, and living area. If we’re not careful, 2 of us will go in the room but only 1 will come out. We can’t change our DNA, but we can be aware of the traps that will ultimately cause discord.
  4. It’s Messy ~ Pick your metaphor, but like the man said, if you walk into heart surgery half-way through the process, you’d think a murder was being committed. We’re cooking omelettes here, right? Eggs are cracking all over the place. There’s just no getting around it – even the change will change. It was Day 1 of our re-model, and I heard these words; “We’ve experienced a set-back.” On Day 1. Honestly, I laughed…you can’t expect something as significant as this re-model (or, say, a merger?) to be pretty, or for it to go without hiccups. There will be mistakes, there will be setbacks, and there will be even more change as a result. Don’t watch how they make the sausage, just enjoy that sucker when it’s finally ready to serve. There, that’s 3 metaphors for the price of one. 
  5. Celebrate the Small Things ~ “Dream big, but think small.” If we wait until the final punch list is completed, we’ll live in frustration for the next 5 months. There must also be times we celebrate the progress we see on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Put the flooring down? Cheers! Changed to a single payroll system? Salúte! Don’t wait for the big payoff, and don’t minimize accomplishments along the way – enjoy each moment, knowing you’re one step closer to having a shower attached to your bedroom.

(Apologies to my friends from Arkansas.)

Need a shake-up in your housing situation? Can’t recommend these guys enough:, @mancavedfw




A Declaration of Your Independence

Hey Hardballers, this article introduces a special series (and a special person) featuring a revolutionary employee engagement concept called Engaged ProductivityTM. Check out my friend Pam Teagarden at her company website, ~ throughout July, expect additional guest appearances by Pam here on HR Hardball.

In the course of human events, we have reached a moment when every corporate citizen may abolish the establishment of absolute tyranny over the state of your business – in pursuit of happiness and liberty.  I am honored to invite you to sign up to receive my blog series, unveiling my new research on engagement in productivity.

As we celebrate our independence in the US, it seems like the perfect time to invite you to review my new, helpful information that results in Engaged Productivity™.

(Drum roll, please.  Step aside for the marching band to enter…..)

Free yourself from:

  • Idealized definitions of engagement that imply a company-wide utopia, with no sustainable link to business productivity
  •  Engagement surveys, measuring the state of engagement, that fall short of establishing ways to fix the issues raised
  • Engagement surveys, measuring the state of engagement,  that fall short of establishing ways to fix the issues raises
  • Soft measures of employee engagement that underpin a loss of more than $300 billion, every year

Recognize new metrics, measured in a new way, that can quickly, precisely and predictively increase productivity, without sacrificing any individuals’ liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As for me, I am really celebrating – for so many reasons.  I truly feel the freedom, After 6 years of research on the subject of engagement in productivity.  I’ve found it; a “truce” to resolve the revolution between your organization’s need for productivity and every individual’s pursuit of engagement at work.  A fair and self-evident system of business.

I’ll be starting my series with “There are 2 Kinds of Employee Engagement Surveys – and neither one works the way you wish it would” – look for it here on HR Hardball and on my website at (cue the fireworks!)

Engaged Productivity™ encompasses revolutionary new thinking to solve the employee engagement challenge in quick, precise and predictable ways. 

 To learn more, contact us at:

Pamela Teagarden, Founder of Authentum™, started her career as a banker, before her post-graduate work in corporate behaviors and positive psychology gave her a front-row seat at the intersection of business and behaviors. Read her bio, here:

Engaged Productivity™ encompasses revolutionary new thinking to solve the employee engagement challenge in quick, precise and predictable ways. 


Don’t Make It A Habit

Had another great life lesson smack me in the face (the best kind) just this week. I need to beware (and be aware) of my habits.

Allow me to illustrate – I don’t travel an inordinate amount for business,  maybe 25% of the time. It’s not cumbersome, and it’s usually planned in advance. Not only that, but the destination is almost always the same – San Francisco.

So I can plan that trip in my sleep…and that’s the problem.

bad habits...get it?
bad habits…get it?

In ONE trip, I actually did the following:

    1. Drove to DFW International and actually went into Terminal B looking for my flight. Never took note that this time I was flying out of Dallas Love Field. No worries, I’m generally pretty good about getting to the airport with time to spare, so after a brief cursing of myself I hot-footed it to downtown Dallas. Made the flight, had a funny story for the wife.
    2. Upon reaching SFO and proceeding to the Alamo Rental Car counter (yes, “Alamo,” I’m a Texan, it’s intentional) I was informed that I had booked the car for two days later in the week. How I did that I have no idea, but the end result was being relegated to what appeared to be an M&M with wheels. Frustrating, but just added to the now funnier story for the wife.
    3. My flight had actually been delayed on the tarmac in Dallas for almost 2 hours, so as I’m heading to the Marriott it seemed good idea to call and alert them to my late arrival. Time to start being smart again. I had my Marriott Rewards number and even had my confirmation number written down – that’s how I roll. Except I was rolling to the wrong hotel. After about 10 minutes of waiting while a Marriott agent look in futility for my reservation, I was exasperated and getting a little chippy with the agent. She must have figured out the problem, however, when she realized that the code I gave her included one too many digits; “are you sure that’s a Marriott code, sir?”

“Am I sure? Of course I’m s…….gotta go.”

I was booked at the Westin.

That’s a trifecta. Wrong airport, wrong car, wrong hotel…winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Rainman could have traveled more efficiently.

My lesson, besides the obvious realization that I’m not smart, was that I had too much confidence in my habits. Never thought to double-check this trip in case things were different (in this case the hotel changed because of over-booking, but that’s the only remote excuse I can come up with) than they “always” were.

Because of that, I wasn’t on top of my game, I wasn’t sharp, and I certainly wasn’t productive. Keep that in mind if you’re on auto-pilot on any of your daily/weekly/monthly duties ~ habits can be a detriment to your overall success.

Just ask the guy driving the Skittle down 101 South.

Freak Out!

I realized something this weekend.

I’m becoming a freak. I’m not totally there yet, but with some concerted effort, full-blown freakdom is just around the corner.

And it’s awesome.

Any of you familiar with the Freakonomics series by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner will appreciate the reference (if not embrace it.) The latest installment, Think Like a Freak is another powerful reminder of some very simple concepts:

  1. I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer
  2. Powerful questions are critical to providing solutions
  3. Incentives may cause undesirable results
  4. Thinking like a child can actually be a benefit
  5. Think “Small”

Allow me to toot my own horn on a few of these, as I’m rarely accused of thinking too much like an adult and I can whip out “I don’t know” quicker than a hiccup, but….It was this last lesson that struck me as particularly helpful, if not convicting.

When I’m not careful, I’ll find myself thinking of solutions/changes that are immense in scope. The proverbial “big picture” thinker, I don’t necessarily want to be bothered with the minutiae ~ sounds impressive, looks good on a LinkedIn profile, but in practice? Well, in practice it can cause problems.

How many of you can relate? You can “see” the solution and predict the end state, but oftentimes skip right past the smaller (and more obvious) issues that prevent our vision from becoming a reality. As the authors correctly note, “thinking small” has its distinct advantages, among them being the simple truth that small changes are much more likely to be quickly and effectively implemented.

In other words, while it’s all well & good to be a visionary, someone needs to actually do something.

Freaky, isn’t it?


If It Moves, Hit It…

There is nothing quite so humbling as uncertainty.

I was reminded of this recently while having a conversation with a friend. His current job responsibilities continue to change, to the point of putting him in a totally unfamiliar role where his experience is minimal at best ~ it’s a daily struggle. This immediately reminded me of my oldest son, Jack, and his transition to football this last year.

Brilliantly smooth on the baseball field, Jack is a Shortstop any coach would kill for. He loves baseball, has been playing it since he was 3 years old, never really paid much attention to other sports.

And then….football.

Living in Texas, playing football is a rite of passage. So, entering 7th grade, Jack decided that he was going to strap on the helmet and play football for his middle school.

Let’s call it a “learning experience.”

Like my friend, Jack was now literally in unfamiliar territory. Skills that served him well in one sport were no longer relevant. Now he had new responsibilities, a new language, different equipment, and limited time to get up to par. What was once fluid and natural became hesitant and doubtful…it’s hard to be confident when you still don’t know the rules of the game.

So, being a knucklehead myself, I gave Jack the best advice I could muster…”even if you’re not sure where you’re going, get there as fast as possible.” In other words, take control of the one thing you have – your ability to move fastSucceed or fail, just do it quickly.

I’ve been in the same cleats and ignored my own advice (shocker) at times; moving cautiously, deferring politely, conceding the issue without a fuss – all of a sudden, you’re riding the pine.

Coaches, like bosses – can see passion and energy. As a Little League coach for my boys, give me the scrappers with dirty jerseys and raspberries on their legs; they’ll drop a few balls, run int0 a few outs, but I’d rather teach them the “book” than teach them hustle

Are you in an an new role? New boss? New company? Feeling cautious, nervous, unsure? Lacking confidence? That’s normal.

Not sure where you’re going? Just get there FAST.

Keep Your Promises


“Trophies are rarely awarded during practice.” – John Whitaker

This is not a drill, HR. The game is on. Your company is being acquired, and you are needed (even if not asked) to make the transition a success. Time to trice up, mill about smartly, and fulfill your promises. “What promises?,” you ask?

In times of merger chaos, every leader in the company has a responsibility that can be summed up fairly succinctly into the “Four Promises.” [Smart Moves, Pritchett]

  1. The organization we hand off is at least as healthy as the one you purchased.
  2. Lead and support employees through the process w/respect, dignity, and engage them as adults
  3. No disruptions to customers (external or internal) – we are the duck’s feet
  4. More value will be found in the new combined entity than the previous separate ones

Seems logical enough, yes? Thinking through this logically, why else would a merger occur if not for increased value? But of the four promises, which do you think is most often neglected and/or minimized?[please say #2]

Number 2 you say? CORRECT!

It happens as instinctively as a bad habit (it is) ~ “Value” is immediately focused on the transactional pieces of the business. Buying power is consolidated, processes are fine-tuned, and we launch shared plans of action to comfort our customer base. To the outside world, we communicate consistently, try to keep ’em happy, and make sure the lights are on at the store.

But how about our employees?

The value of an engaged and productive integrated workforce is almost universally de-prioritized. Granted, the angst and anxiety of major change is unavoidable, so any effort to eliminate the impact of uncertainty is wasted effort. That’s not the goal.

The goal is to minimize the emotional impact encountered by your people – prepare them for the shock, support them through the transition, and maximize the personal and professional value of the employees and the new entity.

As HR professionals, we cannot assume that the employees have been considered with as much concern as the customer; re-establish the people as a priority in the acquisition process.

You promised.


Imagine future generations examining our lifestyles and wondering why we take so many pictures of ourselves.

You know why, right?

We love us.

We are beautiful, unique, and people desire to see our face (or other redeeming quality) as much as possible.

It’s the same mindset we see during organizational shake-ups. Mergers, re-structures, downsizings; whatever rocks the foundation of our pre-conceived notion of what our future will look like.

We take a “selfie.”

Screw the company, what about me???????

Instagram could design an app specifically for employees being acquired. “This is me freaking out.” “This one is me paralyzed with indecision.” “Here’s me trusting NOBODY.” “Here’s one where I’m downplaying the contributions of my colleagues.” “This is a favorite, this is me calling my physician for a stress-related leave of absence.”

These are not the images we want to leave as our legacy, but at some point we’ve all taken an unflattering selfie. The key is to learn the predictable ways that humans react, and decide how you can be the one to break the cycle.

THAT makes for a nice picture.


Let’s Talk About Me…

Self-preservation is a powerful instinct. In the back of our minds, we’re always counting the seats available on the lifeboat.

It’s a primal reaction you’ll witness whenever an acquisition is announced. The scrambling begins, and it’s downright embarrassing at times… but it’s also distinctly human. Politicking, rumor-mongering, turf wars, alliances—we can mask our emotions pretty well, but it’s our actions that tell the story. In Human Resources, your role can quickly change to one of advisor, counselor, and psychiatrist. People are scrambling for seats, and they are hoping you can punch their ticket to ride.

We want to surviveIn our efforts to do so, we expend quite a bit of energy in non-productive and unhealthy activities with worry and anxiety taking over larger chunks of our day.

It’s estimated that employees will “waste” up to 3 hours per day worrying about major organizational changes (Business as Unusual, Pritchett.) It’s natural and forgivable for us to worry about something as traumatic as being acquired; the sin is letting the feeling perpetuate as productivity continues to suffer.

These are not novel, unexpected emotions from employees. We can predict and even identify these behaviors but are often remiss in preparing our leaders to address them. The catch, of course, is that leaders are often in the same boat, wondering about “The Essential Me.” How close are you to your business group leaders? Are they prepared for the psychological change (tip: 90% are not) they will encounter individually, and (some would say more importantly) the impact on the people they manage?

Want a quick way to find out? Quiz them on the “Essential Me” questions; if an employee asks these questions, what is your response?


  1. “Do I still have a job?” – sometimes cleverly disguised as “Should I get my resume ready?”
  2. “When will the merger be finished?” – i.e., “When can I stop worrying?”
  3. “Will my job/compensation/reporting structure change?” – Valid questions, but these are still end-around attempts at gaining more clarity about “me.”
  4. “What have you heard?” – maybe the most frequently asked question; generally signals that you have a communication gap, time to fill it up.

Until you can answer these questions with a level of sincerity and legitimacy, you have work to do on “Me.”