Change Management Lessons from Downton Abbey

9 January 2019

Change Management Lessons from Downton Abbey
By Jeanne Martinson and Laurelie Martinson
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$22.00 ISBN 9-781989-078013

Writers Jeanne Martinson and Laurelie Martinson have leveraged their interests in management communications, leadership, the popular British TV series “Downton Abbey,” and writing to inform business and organization leaders in the nonfiction title Change Management Lessons from Downtown Abbey. This latest volume is one of a series of “Downton Abbey”-inspired books the pair have collaborated on; they believe the show “provided lessons that can be applied to our world today,” and they cite specific examples from the series to introduce how contemporary workplace challenges – specifically change – can be effectively managed.

The cast on “Downton Abbey” (show circa WW1) had much societal change to contend with, including the incorporation of the first basic technologies, like telephones. How did they cope, and what can we learn from their experiences?

Recognizing that change can be difficult for organizations, Laurelie Martinson – a communications and behavior specialist who consults with leaders and introduces change management tools – brought her 25 years of experience in helping facilitate change to the page. Jeanne Martinson is a professional speaker who’s been operating MARTRAIN Corporate and Personal Development presentations and workshops in the public and private sectors since 1993. She has also authored 11 books. The two-woman team, both well-educated and well-experienced in assisting leaders with change, diversity, and communications, suggest that part of the corporate change process is also personal: “Change initiatives will only be successful if every person involved manages the change within the organization and within themselves,” and that using an “ARC model” – Awareness, Responsibility, and Choice – will aid the transformation.

Each chapter of the well-formatted book begins with a quote from the series. Mrs. Patmore, the cook, is quoted thus: “But Daisy mustn’t find out that I don’t know how to work it … because it makes her part of the future and leaves me stuck in the past”. “It” is an electric mixer. Assistant Daisy embraces the mixer, and Mrs. Patmore fears it. The authors use this example to illustrate how individuals “respond to change differently,” and they advise leaders to be cognizant of “the different emotional responses to change”. They parallel Lord Grantham’s initial reluctance to embrace the telephone with modern day employee reluctance to adapt to new software applications.

An effective organization is like a manor “‘house in order'”. Roles change with the times, and positions are sometimes eliminated, ie: footman Molesley recognizes that “Service is ending for most of us,” and thus he becomes a teacher. Elevator operators and milkmen are history, and today travel agents, for example, may have to specialize in order to stay relevant. Looking toward the future is critical, ie: many people now work from home, so a company’s large office space and parking spots are no longer necessary. McDonalds, the fast-food leader, hires several immigrants and it manages the language barrier “by distancing their customers from their employees” via self-serve kiosks and mobile phone orders.

There’s much interesting material here, for both leaders and laypeople. Intrigued? See WoodDragonBooks.Com to learn more.


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