We will occasionally welcome guest authors who have relevant and inspiring ideas to share.  This week we are proud to bring you a post written by Tim Weir of newly merged ParenteBeard, LLC.


Tim is the Learning and Development Manager with ParenteBeard.  Since 2006, he has been responsible for overseeing ParenteBeard University and designing curriculum at all levels.  Tim also oversees performance management, leadership development, and all other aspects of talent management with the firm.   


Who Are You Going to Be in the Face of Change?


My family and I moved to a new place last month.  Moving is a hassle no matter how you slice it, but throw in a 2 year old, a 1 year old and a pregnant wife, and you have the makings for some serious drama.  


All things considered, though, it went well.  My kids sat through both closings and were sweet as pie.  We celebrated at Chik-fil-A (real high-rollers, I know) and when we entered our new home, Anna (big sister to Henry) said, "Hemmy, it's a new house.  Myyyyyyy favorite!"  The kids ran all over the place, stomping, yelling, laughing and enjoying new territory.  Henry was dragging the Swiffer Wet Jet all over the place, smiling and pointing.  The kid has all of these toys, but that's his "go-to" item.  Go figure.


Anyway, after an hour or so, the excitement had subsided.  Henry was napping and Anna was getting bored and restless.  We had a few toys, no TV and it was raining, so even the backyard was a non-starter.  Finally, after Anna had colored past the point of saturation, she put down a crayon ("or "crown," as she calls them), looked at my wife with the saddest look and said, "I want to go home, Mommy"  


We talked her through it, explained that this was home and it was going to be great and we'd have parties and friends and so on.  That seemed to bring Anna's spirits back up, but it wasn't until the next morning, when the movers started bringing in familiar objects, that she really perked up.  "My TOYS!!!!"  She saw the mover carrying her toy box and absolutely lost her mind.   


My daughter's range of reactions is similar to what I and no doubt others have experienced with change in the accounting profession, especially with the acceleration of mergers, combinations and acquisitions we’ve seen.  At my firm, we’re no different.  In fact, effective October 1, 2009, we (Beard Miller Company LLP) merged with Parente Randolph.  Our new firm - ParenteBeard LLC - is a true merger and ranks us in the Top 20 firms in the county.  Needless to say, we are now officially in the throes of monumental change.    


In all periods of change or transition, we cycle through the normal stages of emotion (though we may or may not cry and yell about toys):


    Stage 1:  Shock - What the heck?  Really?  Awesome.  Oh, no!  Regardless of our particular perspective, we will react when presented with the reality of a shifting situation.     

    Stage 2:  Adjustment - How do I adapt to the new firm or understand my new role?  Where do I fit in?  Who do I need to kiss up to now?  Will we still get free coffee?  

    Stage 3:  Outcome - The moment of truth.  While impossible to be certain of the future, the decisions and attitudes we adopt during the adjustment period will determine our success in the new climate. 


Check out this excerpt from The Top Performer's Guide to Change:


Everyone responds differently to change.  Some stagger and falter and some use it as an opportunity to build and transform.  Change will happen, change will require an adjustment process, and change will bring an outcome.  Top performers impact the outcomes of change by understanding the process and finding the opportunities.  


I believe this, but talk is cheap.  Identifying these opportunities requires a committed effort from everyone.  For managers and team leaders, it requires an extra level of commitment.  While no one expects rainbows and lollipops, people do want honesty and energy.  The importance of "tone at the top" may be a business cliché, but it's also devastatingly accurate.  To pay lip service to this reality is a recipe for disconnect, miscommunication and a very bumpy transition.  


Firm leadership also cannot assume that people will figure things out on their own.  A firm's learning curriculum has to reflect and target the transition.  Managers and firm leaders (from both practice and administrative departments) should receive the proper coaching and learning opportunities so they can model the proper mindset and approach for their respective teams. 


Change happens to us all, and we’re seeing more of it as our profession consolidates.  But who you are going to be throughout the inevitable stages of change is up to you.  At ParenteBeard, change management will certainly be a theme for our 2010 partner and staff learning calendars.  Combining the 35th and 36th largest firms in the country is not an event, but an ongoing process requiring a long-term view.


Our learning team is in the early stages of planning, but I'm already thinking of bringing in my kids as consultants… I'll keep you posted.  


In the meantime, if anybody has an insatiable urge to tear some wallpaper, paint a room or rip out some landscaping, drop me a line.  The pay is non-existent, but my wife's a great cook.  Or, if you’d rather post a comment or suggestion about change management in your firm, that would be great, too.


Thanks for reading.