Before getting started, prepare yourself for my Change Management story that extended far beyond the words change or management. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did.
This was written in a 6th-floor hotel room in the city of Dublin, Ireland. I was in Dublin for a meeting, my flight home was canceled, the wind was howling, sheets of rain pouring, windows shaking, lights flickering, and there I was – reflecting on my experience. This story needed to be told, it was burning inside me, so I seized the moment.
Looking back, harsh reality
One year ago, as part of my recovery from surgery, I began walking to a medical clinic in downtown Seattle, WA for treatments. One day, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something strange and a little out of place. It was a giant rock that didn’t seem to fit its surroundings. After walking past a few more times, I decided to investigate.
I approached but the purpose of the rock was still not coming into focus, I had to get closer. The rock was massive, standing about 3-4 feet tall and 6 feet wide, it was both beautiful and mysterious. The sides were natural and rough, a granite giant begging for attention (and it got mine). The top was polished to a mirror finish, it also had one side with an intentionally carved angle. Heavily weathered and seasoned round metal objects were purposely embedded – what was this and why did it get my attention?
Looking ahead into the unknown..
At that time, I was searching for purpose, looking forward to the future, imagined myself working for a new company, not knowing what was next for me, and a heart filled with hope. I leaned into the side of the rock and it all came into focus… the metal disc was a geological survey marker with precise longitude and latitude information for Galway Ireland (Gaillimh – Eire).
My first thought (as an American focused on my own world) was “where the hell is that?, Ireland, why Ireland”? There was a bronze carving that explained Galway as a sister city to Seattle and the existence of another stone on the other side of the world at the exact coordinates.
The angled side marker indicated the precise direction and path for the shortest distance between two points connecting the sister stones through the earth, what a beautiful thought.
I stood in amazement and focused my thoughts, feelings, and actions on that marker. I left my troubles behind, transported myself and imagined what was waiting on the other side. What it’s like? Who’s there? Why? How? At that moment, and after, I was dreaming of the future. SoftwareONE was not on my radar, my only thoughts were the changes ahead.
Wow, that was a strong gust of wind. Getting kind of scary, keep writing. Ok, back to it…
Time passed by and the rock faded into the background noise of life. The hope for the future was there but the rock memory was simply filed away into deep storage. As time passed, my body and mind grew stronger and I felt like ‘me’ again. I was ready and focused on bringing my skills, experience, and knowledge to an organization where I could make a real difference.
I was seeking a company that believed in the words they spoke, recognizing that words need to be more than empty promises.
At this point, you are probably wondering, where is he going? or, “I don’t really care about his life story”. If you need to leave at this point, I understand, however, there is a point to all of this. As my father-in-law always said, “let the story unfold”.
I reached out to a connection with whom I hadn’t spoken to for a number of years, Edie Yae from SoftwareONE. She set off this chain reaction and I am grateful beyond words.
I eventually joined to lead the charge for Change Management. Although a subject matter expert, I understand (and know) that I have much to learn…a perfect match!
Planning, discussing, onboarding, training, all led me to a meeting in London. At the last moment, the city was changed to Dublin, and then it hit me….Ireland. What? Really, IRELAND? The memory file of the stone was brought to the front of my mind.
Could it be? Really? Was this vision of the future really going bring me to Ireland? Were my hopes about to become a reality?
The time finally arrived, I set out and was on my way to Dublin for a ‘training’. The ‘training’ turned into something much more…it quickly transformed (changed) into a lab setting that connected strangers together to reimagine ACM (Change Management) – none of us could have ever imagined how the experience would change us forever.
Yes, we worked on ACM, yes we fine-tuned the offering, yes we created a process, yes we created a tangible product, yes we thought like a startup, yes we strategized, yes it was a hackathon – yet, that was only part of the story. We connected on being human.
Change Management is about people, being human, and being ok with that. We laughed and cried, we agreed and disagreed, we discovered common bonds that transcended generations, time, languages, cultures, and so very much more.
Wow, BIG wind again! This storm is really picking up! Ok..focus, focus…
We created an experience that was not training. In reality, not everyone was 100% sold on the ACM project and that’s perfectly perfect. Being human and understanding people allows for respecting individuality and honoring differences. It’s not possible for 100% agreement and the world will be a better place when we can all agree on that. We don’t need to agree on everything to like each other, get along, or work together when connected at the heart, not just the mind.
During our sessions, I told my Galway stone story and the connection to Ireland. I had plans to explore Guinness and Jameson on Saturday and then it happened. Joe (my son’s age) held me accountable. He told me that I needed to find the stone. He influenced and changed me. This set off another chain reaction, the group wanted me to find the stone – a prime example of the power contained in Change Management. I set a plan, I wasn’t about to disappoint them (or myself). This was no longer a me journey, it became a WE journey.
By definition, WE CHANGED. Our time together started with strangers in a room and ended with really knowing each other. It was a tearful departure with an understanding that this is the beginning, not the end. Everyone went home to return to their lives, jobs, and families, only I was left behind.
Into the unknown
Saturday morning arrived, the last new friend departed for the airport and I was off to find my other stone.
Galway is approximately 2.5 hours by rail from Dublin, the other side of the country. I was on a quest but something weird was happening, I was not alone. My new-found team was with me both in my heart and my phone…they sent messages of encouragement and were my beacon of hope guiding me, comforting me, accompanying me along the way.
I finally made my way onto the train and settled in for the ride. The rail car quickly filled up. A woman sat across from me and gave a polite smile. A large group of men (10 or so) boarded wearing Kim Jong-un masks, bottles of Jameson in hand, loud and drunk (9:25am).
I sparked up a conversation with the woman across from me, Katherine from Scotland, and discovered that we had a lot in common as the LOUD group of party-goers raged on. She was on her way to surprise her sister for a 40th birthday party. A couple boarded at the first stop and sat with us. I invited them to join the conversation and as we all spoke, actually, shouted to hear above the party a few rows behind. They were getting away from their three kids for the night and we found a lot to talk about.
We spoke of family, work, tech, and everything between…connected on a human level sharing life stories, hopes, and dreams.
At some point, Microsoft was mentioned while we were discussing the problems that they all faced in their respective workplaces. Then suddenly, without warning, like appearing from a puff of smoke, seemingly out of nowhere, an elderly man appeared.
Really, I had no idea how he appeared or where he came from…he was simply not there, then there in an instant. He made eye contact with me, standing in the aisle trying to maintain his balance as the train rocked side to side and bounced around. He asked directly if I worked for Microsoft.
My seatmate graciously stood to allow this man to sit. His name was James (but insisted that I called him Jim). Jim was in his mid-90’s. I had a hard time understanding him due to a combination of the party noise (did I mention how loud it was?…it WAS!) and his heavy industrial strength Irish accent.
He began talking to me about digital transformation and change management – he became my professor and I was his willing student. He recalled stories of his adventures bringing large reels of data from their Unix systems aboard aircraft, crossing the Atlantic, physically transporting them to IBM for mainframe input. His stories were detailed, contained rich content, and were relevant to today’s challenges and opportunities, and my task ahead.
During the conversation and NOISE, at one point, another seatmate (Paula) leaned into me and said, “It’s a long way to Galway”, I understood this as we were in for a story and an adventure – she was correct!
It was surreal, there I was speeding my way through the picturesque Irish countryside, noticing sheep (a lot of them), appreciating talking with strangers, noticing the drunken revelry surrounding me, more sheep, and taking notice that the weather had changed from sunshine to ominous and threatening. The sheep were starting to gather together for comfort and safety, and then more sheep.
At one point, the train stopped for a bit and was rocking side to side due to the strong winds. Rain was collecting on the windows, separate drops of water connecting (drawn and attracted) to each other which created everchanging streams only to be replaced by more raindrops, all while the wind was whistling through the doors and seams. Whatever the reason for the pause, we were once again on the way. Although the pause button was pressed, the conversation and party raged on without disruption.
Katherine commented that it was like watching and being inside of a movie, she was right. We eventually arrived at the station. I was honored to have been Jim’s audience while he proudly recalled and told the story of his life. The party disembarked and the train car fell into silence.
Wow, quiet enveloped us like a warm blanket. Jim disappeared as fast as he appeared… he simply vanished. I did a quick reality check to see if it was all just a dream. He could easily have been a ghost riding the rails, endlessly telling his story to all that would listen.
He wasn’t a ghost (I took a picture to prove my sanity). Jim and the and the others entered my life at the right time and the experience could not have been more real. The remaining passengers disembarked, we exchanged pleasantries – that part of the story ended.
I was off to find my rock. The rain was coming down sideways, the wind was whipping, and I was determined to find my way. One problem, I had no idea where to look. My only clue was a fuzzy photo on a badly formatted website stating that it was ‘easy to locate’ because it was in a ‘prominent square’. Minor issue, there are many prominent squares in Galway. After walking aimlessly for an hour, I decided to stop looking.
I followed my instinct to seek water (not to drink, just to see and experience). I found my way to the waterfront. The storm was gaining strength, flood barriers in place, sandbags at the ready, and pelting rain. I followed my heart, walking the narrow streets, turned a corner and then…yep, there it was. The ‘sister’ rock with a marker pointing to the other stone in Seattle, WA.
Looking back to envision the future…
I stood there for a moment, pressed my wet and cold hands against the rock to feel where I was in that moment, appreciating the journey, how I got there, my connection to my past and future, the realization of a dream, and the people that helped make it come true.
I was overcome with emotion.
I found the answers to my original questions, the answers to what I was looking for… I was home, a new home, an Irish home, and SoftwareONE home. In my heart, I felt the power and the connection through the earth and to the people and places on the other side. I discovered more than I could have ever imagined. Technology enabled me to find my way and SoftwareONE provided the opportunity for something beyond measurement… connections, human connection that will answer the question, “what’s next?”
In order to realize change, we need to realize we are human. This recalling of events was written to show genuine appreciation for the experience. Humans are connected in countless ways. Drawn together like those drops of water on the train window or the sheep huddling for shelter. We share more commonalities than differences.
I thank my teachers – my Dublin taxi driver with his two boxers and two new knees (after living in so much pain), my train mates Jim, Paula, Katherine, rugby guy (couldn’t hear his name), the drunken party guys, and so many others, too numerous to count. My barista Doina who’s smile melted me each morning. I am grateful for how my time with Rachel and “Mark with a K” reminded me of my own vulnerabilities.
Grateful for my new SoftwareONE team and family – thank you for seeing me, thank you for opening up to me, thank you for letting me in, thank you for being my teachers, thank you for being with me on my “long way to Galway”.
Herbert, Angelika, Laura, Marina, John, Paul, Peadar, Petr, Sebastian, Achim, Julia, Eiko, and Joe – thank you for simply being YOU!
I just looked out the window, the storm is passing, and the sun is starting to shine. Change happened while writing this story. Darkness and fear changed to light, warmth, and hope. As stated in the opening, this was not about Change Management, it was about appreciating the most important component of change – people.
I welcome your comments and the opportunity to discuss SoftwareONE’s Change Management program – Adapt & Adopt, created by people – real humans that know how to be human.