Posted on Jul 14, 2013 by Kait Dinunzio
The history of change management isn't a sexy one. Well, some might argue it is - what with Connors and Kotter and their realizations and the early adopters (GE, AT&T and the like). I don't think it's necessarily sexy. I see it as a scramble to become and stay relevant. Right now, we're relevant, but I don't think people realize the full reason behind WHY we're relevant. Sure, someone sees the benefits - but when we have CEO's and Executives in large-scale companies continuing to question the value or need, perhaps we're missing something.
We don't win brownie points when something goes right, that's just business as normal. Someone wrote a good code, user acceptance testing was done properly.. maybe we had a good web master ... It's all just SN (Situation Normal). On the other hand, if something goes sideways, it's politics; poorly executed change management. We're SNAFU'd (Situation Normal All F&^$(@ Up). When we get SNAFU'd, it can come down to a few things. Generally it comes down to the mismanagement around expectations, or a lack of transparent and effective communication, or deficient planning and execution around transition points. Worse yet - we could forget to communicate with our Champions and maintain them as such.
We can go around and around about the quality of change management and the methodologies and the toolkits all day long. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, tools are tools and methodologies are methodologies. The largest deficiencies with change management as a practice comes down to the "NEED" factor and the people behind the tools and methodologies. Do our clients even know what they need? Are we overselling them? Or perhaps we're underselling them!? Better yet, we keep regurgitating Kotter and Connors, show off our stakeholder management maps and share our little impact assessments during slide shows at lunch and learns... and we expect a CEO to be enamored by this?? Sure, the science - it screams, "WE'RE CREDIBLE!!!!!" That should create inclusion and demand ... right?
My clients don't care about the science they care about the ART! Simply put, we're not managing the change of change management very well and this is reflected in the astounding ratios of continued failure of business change. We're spending too much time talking about the science and not enough time showing them how the art looks. I'd liken it to buying a new vehicle. I definitely care about what's under the hood; not more than the navigation system, moon roof and air-conditioned seats, though! For me, as a consumer, comfort and value (okay, and looks!!) of a vehicle are far more important. That's kind of how my clients are with change management. They don't want to see it - and in fact, when they don't see it is when I'm most successful. It's almost like being the Wizard of Oz....
I believe that a bit of the root cause to the "relevance" card in the market right now comes down to people who are not PEOPLE people getting PROSCI certified. While I see no downside to people becoming certified and aware of the practice of change, I do see a problem with someone who has the personality of a sock getting certified and calling themselves a "change manager". In my opinion, there are three distinct personality traits one should possess in order to be an effective change practitioner:
People are messy, and in order to minimize the difficulties, you need to be able to engage them in a meaningful way. If you're genuinely someone who cares about the people in change, can articulate the vision and share the map on how to get there, people will follow you. I always think of the "Three C's" when developing an engagement strategy or getting started on a new project:
This is all foundational stuff. I believe that if we take a more artistic view toward our work and take an attitude of continuous learning to improve our own engagement skills, we'll see amazing benefits and growth as a practice.