S2 E103 — Confronting Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, Resistance and Unrelenting Stress

Attempting so much, so fast to meet the more drastic measures in a shorter time frame while in steep decline, created larger than expected stress levels in a climate of fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Large scale, mature organizations, I learned resist change like an immune system does.

“5” Steve Jobs, (1955 – 2011): When you can’t be knowledgeable (no one can know all things, and if they could, they’d be insufferable) then be versatile. The ability to adapt and respond is more important than the ability to know and stand correct.” Pisces

Hi and welcome to Thursday’s Episode 103 in Season 2 of  “My Pandemic Year Natural Experiment” on this 27th day of August in the summer of 2020.  

“The Tau of Steves: What You Don’t Know Could Fill a Book”

Table of Contents

Season One and Two are a two-year examination of how bits of wisdom changed during the “normal” pre-pandemic and then in this unfolding pandemic year.

Previously in Season Two, the Pandemic Year

S2 E102Caught by Surprise in a Major Gut-Wrenching Decline; S2 E101The Story of Strange Bedfellows Saving the Day; S2 E100Live, Love, Work, Play, Invest and Leave a Legacy

Related from Season One, the Normal Year

S1 E103Innies and Outies and Other Potential Catastrophes; S1 E102Why Is It Always Hidden in the Fine Print?; S1 E101From Saint to Soul Mate and Trusted Friend; S1 E100Running out of Determination and Grit by the 100th Day


This is a continuation of “Volume Two Manuscript — WorkFit” a work-in-progress.

In previous episodes we described Start Up, Emerging Growth, Rapid Growth, Sustained Growth, Maturity and Decline stages.  But, each with the emphasis on how a specific stage provides another better fit opportunity for one or more of 16 Talent Profiles.

We described two mini case studies of what it was like working behind the scenes at a mature companies in a financial, in a consumer industries and in another century-old university system — Part One and Two. 

Consequences of Not Mastering Growth Crises

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

We now shift to a fourth example of a century-old mature organization, a multinational engineering and construction company, but this time caught by surprise which led to a major decline. We continue with Part Two describing restructuring initiatives.

22. Internal Consultant MD&T 

Part Two

Matrix Management

This was a matrix organization of large scale construction projects staffed by engineering disciplines which for performance and salary reviews made management administration difficult and complex.  As oil refinery and energy construction orders disappeared in the “income pipeline” minor initial adjustments  turned more drastic as the industry downturn lasted much longer than expected.  

Then Came The Restructuring 

And, then the industry-wide turn down blew into town.  During the downturn doing things the way they had always been done gave way to cutting back — introduction of new project efficiencies, quality improvements, new technologies, expansion of sales and marketing tools and orientation, and outplacement for hundreds of employees receiving their Friday pink slips.

So Much Change = FUD

Attempting so much, so fast to meet the more drastic measures in a shorter time frame while declining created larger than expected stress levels in a climate of fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Large scale organizations, I learned resist change like an immune system does.  

My Colleagues

A crisis threw me and all my colleagues in our internal consulting unit into high alert.   For us trainers the announcement that the entire Supervisors Certificate program had been cancelled caused a group panic.  

But, as it turned out we huddled with our new leader who filled the 30-day leader vacuum and launched a conspiracy.  

We focused on applying lessons learned in consulting engagements.  We partnered with another internal consultant in our group for coaching and advising reluctant formerly high potential leaders into entrepreneurial or cost-cutting projects that would test their meddle.

Sales Training, Situational Leadership, Quality Improvement, OD team building

before the new boss, Dr. Paul assumed the position.  Luckily, his vision for the department was pretty much a reinvention of what it had been years earlier — internal consultants 

New Technology Introduction

From a trial demonstration and research into technology introductions I helped shape the initial drafts of new plant design and 3-D graphics proposal, 

Key components:

    • Management Strategy and Role, 
    • Employee Involvement, 
    • Formal Education Considerations, 
    • Organizational Design, and 
    • Rewards and Incentives, 

Each section generated a different set of problems and challenges to be worked through.  

If the new technology was to have a positive rather than a costly non-productive impact, those issues needed to be addressed.

Distilled from USC and UCI 102 Thought Leaders one major conclusion was it didn’t matter what the specific technology was, the reception of it by the employees could lead to a sabotaging disaster or a career advancing success.  

Sabotage Followed from Shock and Surprise.  

No advanced warnings.  Just execution.  Career advancing ended with execution, but began with widespread organizational planning.  

Out of that naturally flowed the development of requirements.  Not everyone had to be involved, but they needed to receive communications about progress, especially during the planning about implementation and integration strategies.  

Why, who, what, when, where, and how it would impacted those affected.  If you laid the ground work, then and only then do you entertain bids and select the best fit technology solutions.  

And finally, you execute.

Upskilling Sales and Marketing 

Sheila, a Ph.D and 102 Thought Leaders, like our new leader Paul brought a more academic, yet faster paced urgency to new initiatives. 

I partnered with Sheila and Irv in the complex Sales Training Program 

Sales and marketing presentation case studies of wins and losses replaced boom time deals done over country club handshakes We addressed pressures on sales and marketing when the backlog of new major projects dwindled and new proposals met with demand by the huge clients to interview not just the executives, but the technical staff and project administrators as well.  

If each person in group panels contradicted another person’s expert assessment, that multi-million project would be awarded to a competitor. In one actual deal gone south two engineers argued over the company’s “bottom of the barrel” extraction capabilities in front of the client team charged with choosing among competitors.

It didn’t go well!

First came the classroom training emphasizing presentation skills and sales techniques that most engineers cringed at, being Systematic-Professionals, 116 Institutional Traditionalists and 114 Brand-as-Experts as they participated.  But, during the competing teams challenge they appreciated the additional skills required once a real case study had been analyzed, compared to competitor strengths and weaknesses and a sales theme emphasizing our strengths and their weaknesses against the stated and unstated client requirements.

Then each team member presented a portion of the proposal to a team of judges taped for debrief and prizes. One-on-one individual feedback sessions followed.

Quality Improvement Program

As more managers got the cost-cutting imperative message I began facilitating meetings using agendas from one of our canceled classes, which emphasized collaborative problem solving including inviting cross-department participation, brainstorming potential solutions, assessing the best ones, getting buy-in for implementation and scheduling action steps.

In my partnered quality consultant role, I enjoyed working “in the snake pit” with the maverick process engineering department.  One of the major issues to emerge was activating our “unsatisfactory counseling procedures” to help resolve an older opinionated employee who hated working for a newly assigned rookie supervisor.

I advised the quality improvement steering committee set up in the process engineering department.  Sometimes it boiled down to just “giving permission” for them to be creative in their own coordination of their approach to QIP implementation.  Initially the process engineers were the biggest skeptics of the “make certain” and “do it right the first time” slogans injected from a popular canned program bought in from the outside.

They are the Prima Dona department.  On any project they are the ones who design the processes and technology to be engineered.  Many times it is trial and error in the beginning and is by its nature creative

But, they are isolated.  Having only one department meeting someone remembered happening 20 years ago.  Therefore, they didn’t act as a team or have a core identity.  We began low key with setting up informal get togethers to help boost their morale, define themselves and to one to grips with their unique quality issues and dilemmas.

Eventually, they figured out the benefits accruing to them as they participated, especially when after they took off their “training wheels” the tackled the problems and challenges they all wanted fixed “by someone” else.  And they enjoyed it.


“4”  Steve Zahn, 51:Part of you has been making plans without the other part. Get all sides together for a sit-down talk aimed at naming a few common goals. You’re as powerful as you are unified.”Scorpio

During declining restructuring from a position of leadership, you can be a good corporate citizen, but know your best interests may not be what the executives have in mind.  Therefore, plot out a plan A for surviving, but a plan B for when you don’t.

Random ones that make me want change my sign.

“3”  Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980): “Nice isn’t always good, and not nice isn’t always bad. There are many reasons people have for doing what they do and for being in the mood they are in. Stay aware of the bigger picture.”  Aries 

During conditions of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) sometimes a more directive leadership style is required due to the urgency.  

“5” Steve Jobs, (1955 – 2011): When you can’t be knowledgeable (no one can know all things, and if they could, they’d be insufferable) then be versatile. The ability to adapt and respond is more important than the ability to know and stand correct.” Pisces

Engineers often require a fail-safe perspective because what they design can endanger workers in the field, in the plants and in their offices.  A strength taken too far — deployed over and over again no matter the situation — becomes a weakness.  Analysis-paralysis leads to overthinking at a time when action is required.  And resistance turns to indirect sabotage.

What’s Going On

Literally Bottled and Set Adrift from KnowWhere Atoll 

    • @knowlabs followers of one or more of my 35 digital magazines organically grew from 4733 to 4807.




    • Saw the movie, didn’t realize that one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly — his detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch book series and Amazon Prime series — also wrote, “The Lincoln Lawyer” which I just finished. Gotta tell you I can’t not see his lead character (Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother) as anyone else but Matthew McConaughey. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by: Holiday Mathis – Creators Syndicate


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