The University Record, October 30, 1995

Norman advises Expo visitors to thrive on change

By Jared Blank

 Nathan Norman, director of plant building services, told the audience at the M-Quality Expo that he has an affinity for change. "I thrive on change. I love change. Change is something I don't believe I'd like to do without."

Recognizing that many people have difficulty handling change in their personal and work lives, Norman presented tips for prospering in a world of change.

"There are many of us silently saying to ourselves, `Stop this world, I want to get off,' " he joked, though many in attendance nodded in agreement while they chuckled. "Well," he said, "we are either going to start accepting change or be swallowed up by it. We need to enjoin into the process of change.

"Change is not necessarily the enemy," he continued, "it can be rewarding. It's how you look at it; it's your point of view."

Norman espoused the virtues of the quality movement as the best way to facilitate change. He focused on the importance of customer service and defining each staff member's role in the overall scheme of their organization.

Upon his arrival at the U-M, Norman worked to bring Plant Building Services to a more customer-oriented approach to business using Total Quality methods. "Quality is achieving what is expected by determining what the customer desires," he noted. "Once we do that, I think we'll be in the ball game."

Being in the quality "ball game" includes taking customer complaints seriously and using customer suggestions as a guide to continuous improvement, he said.

To expand a staff member's personal contributions to ongoing change in the workplace, employees need to set a personal agenda, he advised.

"You should define your priorities by having a purpose and a goal. Ask, `Why does this job exist?' If you haven't discovered why your job exists, I suggest you change jobs."

As was reflected in his talk, which he peppered with humorous personal anecdotes, Norman believes in the importance of keeping a sense of humor in the workplace. He suggested that people can be serious about what they do without being solemn.

"I want people to laugh at me once in a while---it shows I'm still alive and that people are paying attention to me," he said.

And while changing the culture of our workplace towards a quality environment is important, it does not mean that principles need be compromised in the process, he said. "Values and principles must be part of the sequence of change. It's imperative that they do so, or change becomes intolerable."

"Helping people to successfully manage change is the new frontier for those committed to continuous improvement."