The traditional idea of managing change is a contradiction in terms. It implies limiting and controlling change. Change occurs naturally all the time and rather than managing change, we need to manage our relationship with change.
Our change management services are about building an awareness around how change shows up in organisations, bringing greater intentionally to our anxiety about change and embracing the natural energy for change that permeates all organisational life.
Contact Geoff to discuss further.
Change management is relevant when:
- There is a sense that change is “looming” over the organisation.
- It is felt that trying harder is no longer an effective response to current challenges.
- Previous change management initiatives were unsatisfactory.
- The annual planning cycle is upon you, and you want a different approach this time.
- There is a specific change project on the horizon.
Change Management Services format
A combination of team meetings, conversations and one-to-one executive coaching as required.
- Your organisation and context
- Mediating the future and emergent facilitation
- Options: tactics, crazy ideas, and winning moves
- Systems mapping, coordination planning and boundary alignment.
- Performance and metrics
- Change systems architecture
- Post service review
Contact Geoff to discuss further.
Change Management – A Better Way!
Change is happening all the time. Change is not something that has to be brought to an organisation. It is an inherent property of organisational life.
Perhaps that explains why change management is one the most frustrating and, and therefore one of the most widely discussed problems among management professionals. There is an entire industry of organisational change management consultants ready to make the business case for change and to support project teams with their change implementation plans.
Change Initiatives Fail
Yet surveys show that 70-80% of change initiatives fail!
The ability to manage change – or more accurately, the ability to enable change to flow through your organisation is the most fundamental of management processes. Leadership teams failing in this area are left with presiding over the status quo while hoping for the best. Not a comfortable position!
Why is effective change management so difficult?
The change management literature is filled with design and implementation models, the better known of which include the 7S framework, Kotter’s 8 Stage model, the change kaleidoscope, and even the Kubler Ross Curve (adapted for tracking people’s emotional state in a change process)!
Why is it, that with all our knowledge, and structured approaches that so many initiatives fail?
Could it be that the change management models are creating the failure that they predict?
Resistance to change is a self-fulfilling prophecy
Are the carefully structured change management plans flawed because they confuse cause with effect? Most change management plans are predicated on the assumption that that the key hurdle is to overcome peoples’ inherent resistance to change.
My experience is that resistance to change is not the cause of failure; it is the outcome of failure. By the time resistance has set in, the project has already failed. And conventional approaches to change management address the symptoms of failure, not the cause!
Typically, the failure occurs on the human side. Most organisations and their staff are impatient for change to happen. There is groundswell of enthusiasm for change that is either left untapped or misused within most organisational structures.
The traditional change management models fail in the real world because they are based on assumptions about hierarchically imposed change processes that are applied without discrimination across an organisational system.
In so doing, rather than tapping into the organisation’s energy for change, it cuts across it and turns it into resistance.
Collaborative Management Processes make a BIG Difference
Research shows that there is a significant reverse correlation between participation in a change management plan and resistance to the change. When individuals have a say in the change plan, they become much more committed to implementing their changes.
The psychology driving this is easy to understand. People do not like being ignored. But there is an important rational factor at play also. The people who are responsible for implementing change have a much more intimate knowledge of the thing that needs to change than those ordering the change.
Letting go to let come
“Ah but”, the leadership team will say “if we adopt a consultative approach then we risk not getting the changes that we want.” Which in a sense may be true!
However, if the people you consult with have a better understanding of the practicalities than you do, your design and implementation plan might stand a better chance with their input. Plus, you are much less likely to get stuck in a business environment of resistance. This is win-win!
The question to consult on can be as follows; “we need to do A and the need to do it has arisen because of B, so we need your help to work out how we do it”.
Contact Geoff to discuss further.
Structured Change Management Planning
Change initiatives fail, especially in organisations with a layered or network structure when gaps develop between the teams and departments that are engaging with the change management plan and those that are not engaging (or engaging yet).
The typical situation is where there are two business units. Let us call them X and Y. X passes on information or components to Y. X has been engaging with the change process and Y is behind the curve.
An obvious dilemma arises. If the management team at X continue with implementing the change the current process will fail because Y will no longer integrate, and if they stick with the existing process the change project either stalls or fails.
These boundary problems are about coordination. The job of the change project team is to predict such problems and to plan for how to handle them. However, it is exceedingly difficult to predict these issues if there has not been any consultation.
Too often this type of situation gets mislabeled as resistance. In fact, it is a very natural friction and is entirely predictable.
The Failure of Leadership Teams is Confused with Resistance
Change initiatives fail when they are too tightly structured, thereby failing to recognise the reality of how change transfers unevenly through human systems.
When a uniform and rigid change management approach is taken, the limiting factor is usually management resources. Therefore, when something goes wrong with the carefully crafted change management plan, as is inevitable, there is not enough management resource available to deal with the problems that emerge.
It is the leadership team’s job to understand that when a change process spans organisational boundaries, changing one element will trigger a cascade of impacts. Changing one element impacts everything.
Change management plans must include a plan for what to do when the plan goes wrong. This type of double loop planning can only happen through a very organic or fluid structure.
Resilience through structural redundancy
Successful change management projects almost always navigate a rocky path.
Therefore, it is necessary to move away from assumptions about uniformity and enabling change to unfold in a natural sequence. This has two implications.
First, it enables the management team to pay attention to the boundary interfaces so that frictions can be catered for.
Second, the sequence of change can be allowed to unfold so that each stage helps prepare for the next stage by creating “structural redundancy” which in effect means removing the structural obstacles to next step in the sequence.
Organisations as a Change Conduits
Given that change is the natural state of things, it is a shame to see vast organisational resources wasted on contrived and coercive approaches to change management.
In fact, many organisations find change so painful that they try to minimize the need for it, by controlling and predicting the future.
In denying change, change will be forced upon them. And when it is, a typical reaction is to grimace and try to engineer a way from A to B. Naturally people resist being moved around like cogs.
To overcome resistance organisational leaders, shout about burning platforms and how a hostile and competitive world will wreak destruction if the change does not move ahead as planned. They promise that when we ‘get there’ we can rest in the status quo again.
But of course, the cycle repeats. It is painful and soul destroying. It does not need to be that way!
Making Traditional Change Management Processes Redundant
By moving to a systems approach, change does not need to be imposed from the outside. Instead, the organisation acts as a conduit for the change that is naturally unfolding. People are free to act on what they sense is needed. They are not restrained by fixed job descriptions, linear reporting protocols and isolated operational silos.
This is a description of the agile organisation. The agile organisation needs a new approach to change management.
Book a conversation with Geoff about change management.
Read more about the role of organisational change consultants.