Anne de Bourgh, the heroine of my novel, Rosings Park, is an heiress who inherited a considerable property when her father died. With his death she became the Master—now held accountable for her estate’s success and sometimes derided for being a woman standing in a man’s shoes. After reading Rosings Park, my dearest friend, Dawn-Marie Turner, decided that Anne is more than an heiress and landowner—she is also an organizational change leader. Dawn-Marie, shown in the photo below, is a researcher, speaker, writer, and certified management consultant. Through her company, Turner Change Management, she helps leaders and managers in business and government acquire the skills they need to manage organizational change. Knowing how to be a change leader in today’s fast-paced business environment is a valuable skill, one that takes training and time to master—hence, the market for her business. (Check out her Living and Leading Change: Executive Module here.)
Anne de Bourgh Is a Change Leader
When Dawn-Marie said she wanted to publish a blog about my book, I couldn’t imagine what she would find to write about. What would a 21st-century business woman find to say about an early 19th-century female property owner, and a fictional one at that? Quite a lot, apparently. In her recent blog Dawn-Marie offers an entirely different view of Anne’s management practices than I ever conceived of. Where I saw a young lady struggling to crack her new steward’s character—is he a good man? will he be fair to her tenants? can she trust his judgment?—Dawn-Marie saw lessons in organizational change.
Lessons about Organizational Change
One lesson is that change is constant in any organization, be it a store selling wooden widgets or a landowner managing a 19th-century country estate. Anne knows the truth of this, for after her father died she undertook the responsibility of managing Rosings under the guidance of the estate’s trusted steward, Mr. George Tench. Like any modern CEO, Anne is responsible ultimately for every decision, whether it has to do with tenants, servants, sick horses, ruined crops, deeds, or mortgages. Now that her dear Papa is dead, the estate will succeed or fail by her signature. (Read my blog about Anne’s inheritance here.)
More change occurs when Tench dies unexpectedly. His death means Anne must find a new steward. Mr. Theophilus Arnot is hired and arrives at Rosings full of ideas for changing crop rotation and using muck on tenant farms. There are early skirmishes, as might be expected when a manager pitches modern or different ideas for improvement. Arnot is all for purchasing a four-coultered plow. Anne tells him the turn-wrest plow works best in western Kent.* (Unless I am mistaken, the turn-wrest plow, shown in the image above, has a single coulter. A drawing of a plow with a coulter can be found on Wikipedia. The coulter is the “stick” situated behind the wheels that furrows an edge ahead of the plowshare.) Master and steward must work together to identify those changes that succeed and those that don’t.
Reading about the Master and steward in Rosings Park led Dawn-Marie to view Anne as a change leader. The same can be said of anyone who turns a decision to make a change into those necessary actions that move an organization forward, be it a contemporary mom-and-pop store, a B2B enterprise, an online retailer, or a rural estate in Regency England.
*Source: Boys, John. A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Kent; with Observations on the Means of its Improvement. (London, 1796), pp. 44-45 (PDF pp. 71-72).