“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”—James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo (1994)
In the last two posts, Jennifer Frahm and I considered the costs of the old “change the people or change the people” mindset, and then we looked at the environment of continuous chaos and thought leadership in developing nimble organizations.
This begs the question, “If we ever move in the direction of nimble organizations, will Change Management, as we know it today, become extinct?
Will “Change Management” become extinct?
Is this radical? Are any organizations really thinking about becoming nimble? It seems to us that many are. We see an increase in the reference to “People” and “Culture” in titles at the VP and CXO level, as well as an increase in initiatives that address organizational culture.
Organizations are also increasingly, if perhaps a little slowly, dipping their toes into enterprise collaborative platforms that encourage symmetrical interactions and reduce hierarchy. Technology tools like social media and gamification are unlocking this power by providing platforms that scale and enable dialogue.
This tentative tapping and experimentation with the speed of information sharing, clarification, engagement, and momentum is both exhilarating and threatening to many. As we all become more comfortable with the transparency and learn how to ride the vast waves of information that come to shore on employees desktops, we are evolving new cultures and new social contracts with each other.
Those in hierarchical positions of power have much to lose in the contractual redefinition. Could it be more palatable to “change the organization” via muscled-through change than face a redefined social contract that redistributes status? Jennifer did a great post on this: “A collaborative workplace culture? Six questions to ask first.”
We see an increase in the tension around questions such as, “Is change management a competency or a process?” “Where should change management live in an organization?”, (e.g., in HR or in the PMO), and “Is change management tactical or strategic?” Like in the example of Ricardo Semler’s “Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace” referenced in Post 2, the trend is to integrate change management, as in the development of change capabilities within line managers and individual employees.
Is it possible that some organizations will no longer require discrete change management approaches and methodologies as we know them today? Surely this makes sense. If change management is part of the organizational DNA then we do not need to be shown how to do it. Breathing is instinctive to humans; does change also become more instinctive in organizations?
Surely we need to move from reactive, tactical, and prescriptive change management approaches past even OD-rich notions of employee “buy-in” to rolling, integrated, iterative, and engaged change where:
- Employees observe and participate appropriately in real-time strategy development, planning, and execution
- The organization is co-constructed in response to external stimulus and internal impetus—a hyper-connected organization
- An organization’s effectiveness is defined by its dialogic competence and its ability to have conversations of change that address the quest of relevance
We can take a lesson from Zach Brown, Executive Director, West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. In a blog post on the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness blog, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly first,” he speaks to the need to evolve their approaches to ending homelessness:
“Now, let’s be clear that I am not advocating that we run off half-cocked, trying random things at every turn—plus, we already know many best practices that should drive our strategies. What I am advocating for is a thoughtful venture into the sometimes scary lands of progress that challenge our conventions, linear thought, safety nets, and our fear of failure.”
Time and timing
It is possible that, if this current economic cycle can continue long enough without another catastrophic pothole, we could see some real traction on advancing and evolving the ability of organizations to adapt. It’s that catastrophic pothole that provides the legitimacy to senior executives to move back into well-rehearsed and understood routines of command and control, change the person, change the organization.
Meanwhile, as we meet organizations where they are in their own journeys, we may find ourselves bringing the best of what we currently know about leading and managing change. We may actually need to “change the person,” just not the “person” who is usually changed. Irony huh? Or perhaps we nudge our leaders and sponsors and follow the evolution of the organization into a brave new modus operandi; one could call it a changed organization.
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Jennifer Frahm for joining forces on this series. It is always a benefit to have a “thinking partner” to expand, challenge, and refine ideas, and although we are in different countries (hemispheres, even) and have never met, it has been amazing for us to collaborate. You can find more from Jennifer on her blog at “Conversations of Change.”
Well, where do you land? How long will we be implementing Change Management in structured Project Management models? Can old industrial cultures ever convert to more fluid, dynamic organizations?
- What are the real costs of “muscling through” change? The evolution of Change Management. Post 1 of 3
- Change the organization or change the organization. The evolution of Change Management. Post 2 of 3
- Breakthroughs in strategy
- What’s missing from strategy execution?
- Building/evaluating change management capability
Change Whisperer by www.gailseverini.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.