On the farm, the times they are a-changin’

Cecilia Nysing

Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan wrote a song called “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The first verse of the song is as follows:

Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown

And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth saving

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times, they are a-changin’

Agriculture is such a fascinating industry because the way things are done is always changing. The most successful farms are the ones that manage change well. The phrase “change management” is defined as the methods and manners in which a business describes and implements change within both its internal and external processes.

Successfully managing change begins with people. Change management is sometimes particularly difficult in farming, where farm owners and employees are known for their independence. Successful changes seldom occur on a farm or in abusiness unless you bring the people along. The approach of “shut up and just do it” does not work. People on the farm need to embrace the proposed changes.

How proposed changes are communicated is often critical. Resistance to change comes from fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss. Proposed actions need to be communicated to others in as much detail and as early as possible. However, those being asked to make changes also need to be told to communicate their reasons behind their resistance, if any.

Change management is usually guided by a strong change management model. The ADKAR model was developed by Jeff Hiatt in 2003 (2012. Change Management. The People Side of Change). It is intended to be a management tool for organizations to help employees through the change process. The ADKAR model outlines five sequential steps to bring about change in an organization:

  1.  Awareness. Everyone on the farm be must made aware of the need for the changes.
  2. Desire. Everyone on the farm must have the desire to participate and must fully support the changes.
  3. Knowledge. Everyone must be given the knowledge on how to make the changes.
  4. Ability. Everyone must have the skills to make the desired changes.
  5. Reinforcement. The changes must be reinforced so everyone is aware that there is no turning back.

Finally, the people most admired by others, including myself, are ones who have faced adversities in their lives and made changes to overcome those adversities. Most of us in our lives will face one or more of the following adversities: the death of a loved one; the loss of a job or business or other financial setback; the ending of a close personal relationship either with a friend or a spouse. Those individuals who have successfully conquered adversity have done the following:

  • learned from their mistakes
  • changed their belief patterns
  • forgiven either themselves or others (you can’t get ahead while trying to get even)
  • attacked their unhappiness by doing happy things

Here’s to many successful changes on your farm and in your personal life!

Schneider is a partner in the agricultural law firm of Twohig, Rietbrock, Schneider and Halbach. Call him at 920-849-4999.

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