April 29 2014

The Adolescence of Change Management

"Has change management hit puberty?"

An interesting comment made at the recent ACMP Global conference ‘Change Management 2014’. When I heard this statement, it prompted me to think about two elements derived from the content. First change management is not that old and secondly does this personalise change management or at least give it traits something akin to those of a human. The latter point is kind of neat when you think of it as dealing with the people side of change.

The reference to puberty did trouble me. It made me consider the human qualities of your typical adolescent. Now many people will relate to those traits of an adolescent, struggling to find identity in the world and rebelling or even pushing the boundaries of acceptance. Is this a fair reflection on change management? I started to dissect this thought some more.

What do you think about this reflection, is it fair? Consider the ambiguity of where change management sits in the world of organizations, where it connects and influences the success of changes and how it reaches out and gets acceptance for doing something different to the norm. For many people it has fallen out of the area of project management, yet for others it is a consequences of the Human Resources needs of an organization. Now consider what other fields have influenced the practice and we link to coaching roles for personal and group change and add in the foundation or maternal aspects of organizational development and you are starting to see the multiple personality disorder, or just lack of rightful home for change management.

Let’s reflect those thoughts back into the reaching of puberty. Now perhaps change management is well into puberty already and beginning to form its own adult identity for the future. But does this mean it has been through toddler stages, the terrible twos, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high and has now reached the point for future focus. Is this why practitioners are now self-identifying and finding their own home and sense of belonging in change management as separate and unique from all those (and many more) touch points I mentioned above.

If we flip back to the whole idea of a personality and consider if the human side of change has a human persona!  So defining humanity is some great philosophical discussion that I shall not be entering into here, although perhaps that’s another touch point, with psychology. Digressions aside, I can see the profession in terms of many human characteristics. It speaks to people in the format of communications and it thinks about what it is about to say or do in the preparation and planning for change. It definitely looks and listens to gain data to understand what is happening. Maybe the feeling side is a challenge to relate to but when we undertake strong stakeholder engagement, is that akin to going out and making friends? Are change agent networks just like groups of friends? It definitely has a sense of need of others and a desire to make life better for them through influence, assistance and the greater good!

So let’s put these two elements back together. Change management has built its personality over its wonder years. The early years have been spent copying others, maybe those disciplines of project management or coaching approaches and like any child it has found a way to develop itself through repetition reward and reaction to this activity. Then it starts to interact with others and learn how to make friends, find the good guys and steer clear of the bad ones, building successful stakeholder engagement into its core value set. Then it has had the identity crisis, maybe it’s not sure which group do they belong in, should it go its separate way, and how does it become its own identity? Then its reached puberty and started to realise that it does some things really well, and other things not so well, and with a look to the future it knows it has to develop an ethical approach to dealing with others, that plays to its strengths whilst appreciating the diversity of those around. So now change management is hitting its time for focus, readiness for adulthood and establishment in society as an equal player with all the other guys already out there.

To successfully achieve future goals, and not get caught up in the wrong crowd, regular exercise, healthy living and balanced nutrition will make it succeed. Now we have to consider that those of use in the profession need to keep the discipline on the right path that exercises its content regularly and also feeds it the right knowledge using good quality content.

Let me know what you think email me rich@richardbatchelor.com or tweet me @richbatchelor

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