I read an interesting question posed on a Linked-In group the other day which asked “Given all the change management processes and methodologies, why, still, do many change management initiatives fail?”
Of course change is increasingly complex and challenging but fundamentally I think that the flawed assumption within the question is that the ‘correct’ approach to change lies in one or other of the various processes and methodologies.
The majority of change methodologies adopt what I would term a ‘change architect’ perspective, in that we logically and rationally understand where we are, where we need to be and then put in place the sequential steps that take us from here to there as expediently as possibly. Many of the better methodologies talk about people as a determinant in the change process, but very few place people at the very heart of the change. There are few changes that do not involve the need to engage people and support them to modify their behaviours and work practices, yet very little is written about how to influence these personal change journeys.
We refer to the Change curve developed by Kübler-Ross and imagine that all we need to do is manage people through the various stages of resistance through to acceptance. It seems to me that the fundamental issue here is that we still, through this ‘management process’ objectify the people and their process of change. I would suggest that a far better proposition would be to put people front and centre in the change process. This means that we need to take time to understand how and why they perceive the world today and the desired changes; how to fully respect the legacy of past and current practice and use this as a building block for the future; how to ensure they can meaningfully contribute to the change process; how to monitor and measure progress in terms which are meaningful in their world; and how to appropriately celebrate achievement of success en route through the change process.
In the 2012 Olympics we saw a segment celebrating the creation of the world-wide web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The visual imagery at the event was the message “This is for everyone” lit up across the stadium. Successful change places this principle at the very heart of the design, the execution, the management and the celebration of success.
Change is indeed for everyone so let’s accept the need for the logic of the change architect, but augment this with a subjective and empathic understanding of everyone involved in the change and then, only then, we have a chance of making it for everyone. What follows is surprisingly swift alignment, engagement and commitment to the change – after all, everybody benefits.