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Going Through the Program Was a Transformation for Me

November 1, 1998
Related Topics: Career Development, Change Management, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
Teresa Harris is a third-generation Kodak employee, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather. On her first day at the Rochester, New York-based company, her father gave her some advice: to accept everything and challenge nothing.

Harris embraced the advice. After all, it came from her father, who not only had many years’ experience at Kodak, but also was, as Harris says, "my Dad—and dads are hardly ever wrong." Unfortunately, the systems business analyst soon learned the strategy that enabled her father to have a successful Kodak career could hinder her own. "Kodak today is vastly different than it was 50 or 100 years ago," she says.

Dealing with change.
When Harris started her career in the Health Imaging Division of Kodak in the late 1980s, the company was in the midst of a significant downsizing. "Kodak [executives] realized they needed to be open to new ideas, and I found they weren’t as closed minded as I had thought." Still, Harris was struggling. Things weren’t working the way she had anticipated them. She found herself "treading water and not getting anywhere but really tired."

Then along came "Shift Happens ... We’re Ready," a training program designed to give employees skills to respond to the rapid change in the health imaging industry. It was developed by Marty Britt, director, worldwide human resources, and vice president, health imaging, and Jody Dietz, worldwide human resource development partner, worldwide human resources, health imaging. The day and a half program consists of six modules: setting the context; presenting change models such as Kubler-Ross’ explanation of emotional response to change; advising participants on how to apply diversity in thought; discussing labels, biases and the danger of assumptions; exploring the elements that enable productivity; and helping participants prepare action plans. Participants report progress on their action plans six to eight weeks later at a graduation ceremony.

"Going through the program was a transformation for me—it was that big of a change," Harris says. "I was so mixed up at the time, very confused, not knowing what to focus on next. Taking Shift Happens pulled everything together for me."

Harris applied the skills she learned to make a career change—a lateral move to a job more consistent with her knowledge and interests. She also has used the techniques in her personal life. When she suffered a miscarriage last September, she believes she handled her emotions better than she would have in the past. "It was a comfort to know that what I was feeling was normal," she says. "And when you’re not as confused about your feelings, you can get through them quicker. "

Helping others cope.
Shift Happens had another effect on Harris: "Because of the benefits I derived from it, my first reaction was ‘Wow, if I could teach this and have one person get out of it what I did, it would be worth it to me.’" She became a facilitator and taught the course throughout 1997. She’s also currently "selling" it to department managers in her new division, Corporate Enterprise Research Planning Project.

It’s the personal impact the program has had on people that makes Harris most proud of being a part of it. In a group she facilitated, Harris saw an employee use the skills to help decide about care for an elderly mother, and help family members deal with their feelings around that.

Program co-creator Britt has stories of personal applications etched in her mind, too—stories of people dealing with the death of loved ones, sending children to college, recovering from divorces and rediscovering spouses. "We have data about someone who landed an $8 million account the person otherwise wouldn’t have," says Britt when explaining the program’s business impact. "But the thing I’m most proud of is that [the program] has had a very profound, personal, positive impact on many people. It makes me much prouder than the number of new accounts we landed."

Harris’ dad, seeing his daughter’s role in affecting so many others, should be proud too.

Workforce, November 1998, Vol. 77, No. 11, p. 120.

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