I’ve been in a lot of professional and personal conversations about change recently. When something changes quickly it might be scary, or exciting, but it is something we can respond to. Other change isn’t an event; it’s an ongoing, incremental process. Some of my conversations and thinking have been around what change is when it’s slower than we’d like; when it’s less than we expected, and if it never actually gets finished.

I’ve been reminded of two things. One is the importance of not getting bored or distracted by new activities or problems, but keeping going even when the change isn’t new and exciting (or threatening) any more. The other is the importance of keeping everyone involved pointing in the same direction and moving more or less together over the long term.

We point new employees in the right direction quite well if we induct them properly. There’s an introduction to the team, a clear statement of what they will do and where their role fits. A corporate induction session gives opportunity to meet colleagues from other areas and hear from senior managers about the organisation’s plans. Sometimes there is even cake!

I’ve been wondering how well we re-induct long standing colleagues so the long term “couldn’t do without them” folk are as up to date as their new co-workers with the organisation’s plans, structures and shared understanding of what is important. I suspect we don’t do this as well as we should. All organisations change and develop in response to a whole host of influences from inside and out. But we assume that the folk who have been there for a while just pick up shifts in direction. Some will of course, but others won’t see keeping up to date as a priority. After all they have a job to do, and they quietly get on with it. Will everyone read the CEO’s latest blog post? It’s probably a disappointment to the CEO, but the answer is “probably not”.

So how do we re-induct the folk who are long term, maybe low key contributors who the organisation needs to keep business flowing but who also need to understand what that business looks like now and how to do it well. Not with brochures and slogans that nobody reads but in a way that is real, and connects with people. Part of the answer is in planned, structured, ongoing conversations. And occasional cake.