Change is the goal of change management. It sounds simplistic but change is anything but simplistic. The nature of change is changing. Traditional change management approaches concentrate on making the case for change and adoption of new business solutions and practices.
That view measures success in terms of compliance rather then the realization of new competencies that comes from sustained enrollment and application of new ways of working. Just look at a change program plan and you can see the predominance of an activity-based focus. Completing programmatic activities does not define successful change.
Successful change happens when people change their behaviors and that requires them to adopt new work practices and tools one at a time. The need to enroll themselves one at a time, rather than being ‘rolled’ over through training programs and compliance based activities. The reason is simple, people can choose to comply with new policies and procedures but not change the way they work. This completes the project but leaves change unfinished.
It’s easy to view change as a transaction or series of steps that once complete will almost mathematically produce results. We know that this not true given the various draconian ways businesses go about benefits realization. One example is the wholesale resetting of Department budgets following completion of a change program. While mathematically correct and financially sound, this move tells the manager and workforce that the company was never really interested in change at all, just the savings. The result is often a scramble as people mix old and new to muddle through with fewer resources.
This is a form of blame shifting and can lead to declaring success in one department only to move the problem to another department. If you have every participated in an end-to-end process based transformation or faced multiple waves of change, then you know how business performance issues can migrate across and enterprise.
A new approach to change is based on the individual making a choice one person at a time. For traditional change management approach this person-by-person conversion is cost and time prohibitive because their focus is on performing activities with the assumption of change upon completion. That mechanistic view of change makes for good management reporting but it is incomplete.
Will traditional change management approaches disappear? Probably not for a long time as these practices are ingrained in management and accounting practices. Management practices are evolving to recognize the need to tap into the social systems within an enterprise, customers and suppliers. Accounting practices however lag this transformation by a wide margin and will keep traditional programmatic change alive and well for some time. However the nature of change is changing as people realize the power of social systems.
Change is a personal thing that happens one person at a time. Changing at that level requires people to make a choice, based on the transparency of information that supports the realization of dissatisfaction they feel within themselves. In this view change is a social process and one that is continuous rather than a point in time program. That continuous change, improvement, adoption etc will be fueled by social technologies that enable people to work with each other to figure out and support new ways of working.
This the last post in a set of related posts on the changing nature of change. Here are links to the prior posts:
The nature of change is changing: the new pattern
The nature of change is changing: dissatisfaction
The nature of change is changing: transparency
The nature of change is changing: choice