FDIC 2015 Classrooms: How Diversity and Politics Influence Change Management

How Diversity and Politics Influence Change Management

Assistant Professor Paul Antonellis (Merrimack College (MA))

Thursday, April 23, 3:30-5:15 p.m., Rooms 105-106

“Change Should Not Be Created Behind Closed Doors”

“I feel very strongly about the politics, the ethical considerations, and the social forces within the fire service culture that can have a positive or negative impact on change management,” said Assistant Professor Paul Antonellis (Merrimack College (MA)), discussing his Thursday afternoon FDIC International classroom session, “How Diversity and Politics Influence Change Management.”

“As a fire chief, I experienced change and, reflecting back on this period, I feel that I was implementing too many changes too quickly and not allowing the organization to adjust to the changes.” After Antonellis retired and continued his education, he researched and studied the process of change management. He wrote “How Politics and Ethics Can Affect Change Management” (Fire Engineering, June 2014, http://bit.ly/1LIVgpk.) In response, several people from across the country contacted him about the article and how it hit home for their organization. Several individuals wanted additional information and to discuss the options available for implementation of change in an organization.

According to Antonellis, “Change should not be created behind closed doors, rather, it should be a transparent process that incorporates the stakeholders that will be impacted by the proposed change.” Involving the various stakeholders in an open, honest, and respectful communication process allows the organization a better chance at implementing a change.

Forcing change by your authority within an organization will not create a long-term change–often it will result in resentment. “One must be respectful of the organization’s history when considering change. We must respect the positive and negative aspects of change within the organization, but we may not necessarily have to agree or disagree with the previous changes,” he said. Just because a change has failed in the past does not necessarily mean that that same change is going to fail in the future—learn what factors surrounded the failed change and address those issues. But a narrow-sighted administrator will look at a past failed change and assume that can never be implemented again because it failed formerly. However, Antonellis asserts, “With the right collection of data, change that once failed can be implemented successfully when you incorporate the various stakeholders to be impacted and you also adjust to the challenges that the previous change encountered.”

Antonellis has attended and presented at FDIC for approximately seven years on various topics.  The conference represents  “the most profound educational experience that a firefighter will encounter.” Attendees receive state-of-the-art training on current topics. “You can bring that back and present to your local fire department.”

He encouraged others to write up a training topic proposal for the FDIC International conference. Only the best programs are accepted in the competitive process from among several hundred proposals. “For me, it is a true honor to be able to share my knowledge with others in the fire service. My goal has always been to leave the fire service a little bit better than when I first arrived some 20 years ago,” he said.


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