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To Change Is Human …

I’ve experienced a lot of change recently — we moved to a new house last year, and I also went through a job change — two things that are generally considered some of the most stressful things you can do. Last year our oldest graduated from college and was officially ‘launched’ with her first full-time job, already doing something that she loves — working with disabled children. Unfortunately, I also recently saw a colleague go through a terrible tragedy with one of their kids. And I’m trying to help my parents deal with the challenges of dementia and aging-in-place.  

All of this got me thinking about change, and resilience, and purpose. As a change management practitioner and having spent decades working to help the government solve problems, I found myself asking, how well am I managing my change? Am I able to be resilient in the face of change challenges? And can I find meaning and purpose in what I’m doing, stepping back to appreciate the bigger picture, and persevere through the change?

As someone who doesn’t consider themselves a technologist, I’ve served in a variety of leadership roles for IT modernization programs across the Federal government.  One of the key things I’ve seen over time is the need to include change practices in any technology project, right from the beginning, and failures are almost always due to non-technical issues — mostly poor communication.

One of the benefits of experience is perspective, and maybe these recent events have given me even more of that. I’ve had folks on my teams that had difficulty dealing with uncertainty, wondering what the government was going to do in a particular situation, and when. I always liked the saying that you should spend time/energy on the things you can control, and not waste energy on the things you can’t. Maybe that experience helps build resilience so that you can handle things more easily if they happen again (or maybe it’s just scar tissue).  While challenging, I found over the last ~nine months that most of what I was dealing with was manageable. Am I resilient? Or am I just old/seasoned/experienced?

That brings me to purpose. I started in this line of work because, for someone that was a government undergraduate major, worked on Capitol Hill, and got a master’s degree in public policy, this type of work is a good balance. I focus on helping government clients solve public sector issues they are facing — while also looking to be entrepreneurial for my company. It would not be the same for me if I was working for commercial clients.

Tragic events are a jarring reminder of maintaining perspective. To make sure that you are spending your time on the ‘right’ things — work that has meaning to you, and time with family and friends, or whatever you choose. As I reflect on some of the changes I’ve worked through over the last year, I think I must have gotten out of balance, and maybe this was the world’s way of correcting.  I recall Peter Brady’s voice cracking in that old Brady Bunch episode where they sing, ‘When it’s time to change, you’ve got to re-arrange.’ Most people don’t like change, and that’s why it’s important to proactively manage it, but maybe a little ‘re-arranging’ is a good thing from time to time.  

Ben Marglin has 25+ years of experience in public sector management and technology consulting. He’s currently at Centennial Technologies, an 8(a)/HUBZone small business. He spent 17 years with Booz Allen Hamilton, and also worked at Karsun Solutions and AMS. His areas of expertise include digital strategy and transformation, acquisition, and IT program management. He has a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree from Colby College. Ben lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, son, and goldendoodle Sophie. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.  

Image sourced from free Adobe Stock Images.

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