Sunday, September 6, 2009

Change Management is Redundant

"Change Management" is a popular subject about which many books and articles are written. I find it odd. The phrase seems redundant to me.

Does any business run in "steady state?" Sometimes it seems like nothing is changing, but that is an illusion. People, priorities, the economy, markets and technology change every second of every day. What management is not change management?

Most of the change management programs, plans, software, etc. that I see for effectively implementing the change management process treat change as an event -- in particular a big event. Change management programs tend to focus on communication, overcoming resistance, employee involvement, training, etc. -- how to get people to accept a major change in the organization, such as a downsizing, merger, new focus, or a new company-wide technology upgrade.

But in my mind, these aren't best practices for big change. They are simply best practices. Strategic leadership is about thoughtful evolution. As an organization evolves -- which is constant --communication, training, working on overcoming resistance, employee involvement in the process, are all integral to moving forward effectively. Any time a staff member needs to learn a new skill or a department adopts a new process, be it major or minor, the change management skills listed above are required.

Nevertheless, I understand the need for structured change management programs in dealing with the major events. We need these programs because we forget, we get lazy perhaps. When the changes are minor, we tend to have a willingness to let people "fend for themselves." If managing evolution isn't a critical "life or death" issue for an organization the way addressing a big event is, we let our focus shift to other things.

I would suggest, though, that by not engaging in the best practices called "change management" all the time, we are setting the stage for potential fear and crisis when the next big event occurs.

On the other hand, if we establish an organizational culture where leadership helps coach, support, train, communicate and find out what barriers exist accepting changes, big or small, as they occur, then the need for a major shift of focus and approach is unnecessary when the occasional major, organization-wide change becomes necessary. In fact, if all are involved in and understand the evolution of the organization, then the next big event might not only not be resisted, but embraced.

2 comments:

  1. Absolutely - change is inevitable, whether positive or negative in nature. Building a corporate culture that "embraces" change and empowers employees to navigate those waters paves the way for realignment when Change Agents are required.

    In its most basic form, all employees are change agents based on accomplishments or lack thereof. Therefore, continual training and communication venues are important to send a consistent message to its employees and global partners. Brown bag lunches, newsletters, corporate websites, suggestion boxes - you name it - together form a foundation for addressing issues prior to implosion when its more about "damage control" than "business as usual".

    Joni Fisher
    Fisher Search Group

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  2. Great suggestions for keeping consistent communication going, Joni.

    Most fear and resistence comes from a lack of information from inadequate communication. People tend to "fill in the blanks" when they don't know the true story.

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