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New Thinking in Change: Why not see change as a yearly routine process just like, for instance, budgeting?

Change ManagementChange management is seen as a crucial part of most projects today. Oftentimes, it is even moving on top of the agenda. PMO’s, change teams, respective sub projects or work packages are dedicated to taking care of change. Comprehensive change architectures and roadmaps are designed. Various means of diagnosis, involvement and activation are rolled out. The business of change is becoming more and more integral part of all types of projects, be it strategy, re-organization, IT and so on.

In this regard, I made two concerning observations, though:

1. Leaders, managers and staff affected by the projects often are not connected with the change itself. “I often have the feeling that someone or everybody wants to change me” a manager expressed to me a few days ago. People get involved but with the implicit undertone of “following” not acting. They are more a passenger in this game. Change management is seen as a discipline of experts with almost mystical attributes. It is not seen as a management discipline that is supposed to be mastered by managers and staff.

2. Change management is becoming more and more present in all kind of activities and it seems to be somewhat event driven. What I mean is that today, managers and staff are confronted with a growing, often differently styled, amount of change initiatives, all requiring high attention and dedication in the moment they emerge. Taking the perspective of a manager of a unit, what is missing is the alignment of all these events with the development path or roadmap of the affected unit itself. The units oftentimes are not capable to perform this integration. What is left as a result is often only confusion, lack of orientation and energy. The link between change programs and the strategic and operational routines in the organization is just missing.

Taking this observations into account, I argue that change management could (and perhaps should) be seen in a different way.

Change as a management discipline
First of all, change management can be seen as a management discipline that every manager and even staff should be trained and experienced in. It is just another capability that naturally belongs to their respective repertoire. This different view results in a different expectation and mindset: Managers and staff are taking responsibility for designing and implementing change and transformation. The new business as usual would be that they design the change on their own. They integrate different initiatives in a consistent and coherent framework and create their own change program linked to the requirements of the area they are responsible for.

And the second suggestion would be that change management becomes more of a routine activity in organizations. Just as each year a certain process for budgeting is executed, involving all parts of an organization, there could be a similar process for designing the changes and transformations for the year ahead. The top management would share strategic directions and lay out the paths of change. It would predefine the impact, new goals to be attained, capabilities to be built, and necessary actions to be taken. In the following, every unit provides a comprehensive transformation design including a clear roadmap and measurable targets. This can be followed again by a rough bottom up review and consolidation. Such an approach certainly requires a common language, set of methods, and standards as well as appealing techniques to make this journey an interesting and feasible one for all parties.

The bottom line of this idea is that change would be placed right in the middle of the organization. We would go away from change as an overwhelming event to change as a more routine based activity and even mindset with everyone on board.

This idea fits well with the trend of more agile organizations. It anticipates that so much more change events are on the agenda of organizations today and will, most likely, still increase. But it would necessitate a change itself, a reframing and new mindset in organizations.

To be discussed..

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