As of mid-September, Netmind became part of the BTS Group. This news filled us with joy and enthusiasm, but we received it with surprise and a bit of uneasiness. Because, although we know that “change is the only constant,” we still feel a little uneasy when it knocks on our door and catches us unawares.
In this article, I will tell how I experienced the announcement of Netmind’s integration to the BTS Group in the first person, seeking to incorporate some key messages about organizational change management in the story.
I hope you enjoy it and that it serves as an inspiration to gather ideas or learnings.
Part 1: Before the announcement
It was half-past five on a Wednesday afternoon when I received a request for a meeting from Aleix and Bernat with the title “Important announcement.” As soon as I received the email, I thought, “How strange.” When I opened the invitation, I saw that the whole company had been summoned and that the body of the email said that it was good news.
“Stranger still,” I thought to myself, “In these times, having good news is rare”. Another not minor fact is that the call was scheduled for the same day, at 6.15 pm. That is to say, in 45 minutes and out of working hours. All very strange!
As I was pretty busy and in a hurry, I didn’t have time to think much about what it could be about. I just mentally checked if I had my headphones with me and if I could join to listen to “the good news” from the subway on my way home.
I went back to what I was doing, and a few minutes later, I saw that by WhatsApp, a friend from work wrote me asking, “Have you seen the call up of Aleix and Bernat?”. Reading it made me think about the subject again, and I realized that uncertainty, confusion and intrigue were widespread.
How many more Netmind people would be messaging each other, wondering what the communication would be about? By that time, there were still 30 minutes left, too much? Too little? Whatever… The change had started for us because for Netmind and BTS, it had started months before…
We should not be tempted to interpret people's behavior in the face of change. Instead, we should seek to understand their context, circumstances and reasons. They are all equally valid. Whether we like them or not.
Five minutes had passed when Bernat and Aleix, better known as “the Palau brothers,” finally joined the meeting. You could see them happy even though they were wearing masks. “What are they doing wearing masks? Where are they?” I thought.
After asking the usual questions of the virtual meetings, “Can you hear me well, can you see me, etc…”, “The Palau brothers” started with an introduction to the news that, honestly, I don’t remember. Either my brain classified that information as “not important,” and I didn’t register it, or I was too nervous to listen and understand. Maybe it was a mixture of both.
Until finally, the big announcement came: “As of today, we have become part of BTS Group, a great company that is going to help us expand the Netmind project worldwide.” I don’t remember who said it if it was Aleix or Bernat, and, as I was in the subway with a horrible connection, I couldn’t see the reaction of the people who had the camera on either. What I do remember is that the atmosphere seemed to be one of surprise and joy.
The following messages were optimistic, full of hope and a promising future. They seemed genuinely happy and excited and, therefore, no one could doubt the veracity of their words: this significant milestone was thanks to the work of all of us who are part of Netmind, and in the future, there would be room for everyone.
I was thinking to myself they are doing it right: "Honoring the past and generating an inspiring and inclusive vision for the future," the ABC of change management, but at the same time, I also thought: "What's in it for me: How do I benefit from this? What about me?" And giving answers to those questions is also part of the ABC of change management.
But there was no more time at the time. The Palau’s were at the airport. They had just signed the sale of the company. They were about to take the flight back to Barcelona, but I still had a thousand questions in my head. But everything had been planned: on Friday at our postponed “Summer day” there would be plenty of time to find out more, ask questions and get answers, at least to some of them.
But it was Wednesday, and the news had been too shocking to be able to wait for Friday calmly. So, that same day, an impromptu after the office was set up in the Barcelona offices. Those who were there went for a drink to talk about it. I think that, in part, this is an excellent example of what Leandro Herrero says in his book Viral Change:
"75% of work conversations happen in non-designed, emergent and informal spaces - such as an after office or a coffee in the middle of the morning - and only 25% of work conversations happen in designed, formal, engineered and visible spaces such as committees, team meetings or, in this case, a Summer day.
That is, even though the space to talk about the trending topic was formalized and designed by Netmind, it is natural and expected that employees comment and talk about the issue in other forums and channels, of course, not corporate – as my friend did when she wrote me by Whatsapp, as soon as we got the call or the improvised after office-. It is inevitable.
Taking this into account, I think they did well to communicate it to all of us simultaneously and with a clear and unified message. So, at the time of that informal meeting, everyone had the same information, no speculation, no messed up messages or ambiguities.
But I could not attend the after-office, and, by then, it was already Thursday, and I still had my questions in my head, but more than questions, I realized that I was worried. I thought that everything I liked about Netmind was going to be lost: the fact of being a small, family company, very close and direct, with a flat structure, without bureaucracies.
And, in the middle of that cloud of speculation, I realized that I was going through the famous Kubler-Ross change curve and that I was in the anger stage. When I realized this, I burst out laughing and thought, “I’m the change-resistant one. I’m the character we talk so much about in the “onboarding” courses.” And I laughed, too, because we always say that the term “resistant” is not the right one. There are no such “resistors.” There are people with personal histories, particular contexts and universal emotions that have their reasons or beliefs to “resist” change.
As Jason Little says in his book Lean Change Management, sometimes resistance is a signal that tells us it's the wrong change for a particular time.
However, I was also aware of what I heard Alfred Maeso many times: “There is not just one change, there are as many changes as people go through.“
This meant that we were going through our own curve of change, each at our own pace. And, although it is schematized as a curve that goes through different emotional states in a single direction over time, it doesn’t happen that way in practice. In practice, we “come and go” and oscillate through different states over time. The important thing is to try to get to the state of acceptance as soon as possible.
So, I was also going through the curve of change, and I didn’t know how I would deal with it, but I knew I still had a difficult part left.
It was Thursday afternoon, and my morale, energy and performance were still plummeting.
Parte 2: The announcement
Finally, Friday arrived, and we met again virtually on the atypical Summer day. It was atypical because it was Autumn rather than Summer and because this time, the day would be dedicated to a single topic: the integration of Netmind into BTS Group.
In a very relaxed and good-natured atmosphere, we started the day. The agenda included the typical topics of a Summer day, but one element puzzled me: people from BTS would be included. “Already? This fast?” I thought. I felt that I needed more time to mourn, say goodbye to the familiar, and then make way for the new.
All change implies a loss, and loss requires time to mourn.
Time passed, and my question, “What’s in it for me?” remained unanswered. While we were talking about the integration from the beginning of the day, particular concerns remained unanswered.
Until it was finally time, we dedicated the last hour of the day to questions and answers. And we did it in a Lean Coffee format. A structured layout, but thanks to this structure, it is dynamic. And dynamism is always appreciated.
In addition, the proposals of topics to talk about (in this case, the questions) were all dumped simultaneously. From there, they are voted, and the most voted issues are the ones discussed. Therefore, we were all able to share our doubts and questions and, by making them visible and in real-time, we could, on the one hand, become aware of the concerns of others and, ultimately, empathize with the different realities.
On the other hand, it allowed us to be inspired by each other and ask more questions. Finally, we talked about the most voted topics.
The Lean Coffee format ensures that we talk about the most important to the majority in a structured yet dynamic way.
In general, the questions were about very operational, day-to-day issues: how the short term would change. Not in one or two years. In fact, there were almost no questions related to the long-term.
When faced with a change, people ask themselves how their immediate future will change. And answering that is equally or more important than conveying the vision in a very beautiful or inspiring way.
After four hours, we reached the end of the day, and I felt that everyone was happy except me. I was the only one who could not see the opportunities that this union would bring us and, again, what we teach in our change management courses came to my mind, but this time I did not laugh:
“What “kind of person” am I being? “I thought. Am I one of those who “move others” and catalyze change, those who are “moved by others” and wait to “see to believe,” or those who are “immovable” and resist change?
Again, I felt I was being “resistant,” but something alerted me this time. It was the realization that I, with my “negativity,” could influence the opinion of others. I could be a “mover of evil.”
Although I had not yet had the opportunity to share my concerns with anyone, I realized that I would have to be very careful when I did share them. Because although my opinions and feelings were equally valid as those of others, I could influence or sow the idea that the change would not be good for anyone. And it was not the way I wanted to influence others.
In addition, and here I put an Ontological Coaching collative that always comes in handy to remember: “We don’t know how things are; we only know how we interpret them. We live in interpretative worlds”.
Therefore, my interpretation of reality was just that: an interpretation, an opinion, and it was personal and, therefore, subjective.
We are all agents of change in organizations, whether we are aware of it or not. Once we are aware of it, it is our responsibility to choose how we want to go through the change and how we want to influence those around us.
This awareness made me change my attitude and my point of view towards change. I thought that I did not want to influence anyone negatively, and, at the same time, I felt that I, possibly, would be influenced positively by those who were happy and optimistic. On the other hand, I always trusted Bernat and Aleix and the great Netmind project from the very beginning and throughout these years. How could I not trust them now?
And, having already passed a few days since the big announcement, I finally believe that this union opens the possibility for all of us who are part of Netmind to expand our field of personal and professional development, explore new paths and meet new people. We also keep our passion for what we do and our great sense of team and belonging, only now we belong to a family a little bit bigger 😊.
General reflections on change management
From this story based on actual events and in a context of change, such as the purchase of companies, I share some reflections that apply to any situation of change:
- Change does not affect “companies” only. It affects people too.
- We cannot predict how people will respond to change. The only thing we can do is choose how we react to the response of others.
- We all influence how others respond to change, whether we are aware of it or not. Once we are aware, we can reflect on what kind of influence we want to exert on others.
- If you can identify positive influencers in your organization, make sure they are well informed and involved in the spaces designed to “manage” change, but make sure they are also part of the undesigned and emerging ones. That way, change will spread faster.
- Change management must be carried out with a double bottom line: a long-term one, which sets the direction and motivates us, that is to say, gives us “reasons for action” and acts as a compass. And another one in the short term, which offers an answer to how the day-to-day is going to change and acts, following the metaphor, like a magnifying glass.
And you, are you ready to be the change? #BeTheChange