Wednesday 16 May 2012

Change management is an oxymoron

Change management in my view, like strategic planning, is an oxymoron.

Change initiatives are highly successful when leadership (both as something we do for other people as well as for ourselves) and management, are thought about and acted on in partnership rather than as the one discipline.

People everywhere confuse strategy and planning, two completely different disciplines.  Think about the two together at your peril.  Strategy is about how and planning about execution, who will do what and when. The consequences of confusing the two, or thinking about the two at the same time, are usually that great strategies never see the light of day, they get buried in massive documents that just gather dust, or worse, great strategies never get executed.

Confuse change and management or think about the two at the same time and likely that you will suffer a similar fate, what you want to change, won’t.

Successful change is about primarily about leadership.  Leadership as John Maxwell has observed is “about influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

I define leadership as the art of inspiring people to bring everything remarkable that they are (that one-of-a-kind each of us is) to everything they do

Leadership falters and usually badly, without management.

I define management as the practice of making it simple for people to bring everything remarkable that they are (that one-of-a-kind each of us is) to everything they do

Change like people can’t be managed.  What we can do is manage the systems and processes that will help us to bring about the change/s we are leading.

In all of my work with clients on change initiatives I follow the famous 8 steps of leading change put forward by John Kotter in his 1996 book Leading Change. You can find out more here.

I reread this classic book on a plane recently more than a decade after first reading it. Kotter's work has lost none of its power and I still think it is a must read book for anyone leading change particularly as there is a lot of talk about change management when in my view clearly, successful change is much more about leadership that it is about management.  It is about both however, together in harmony.

How well are you succeeding in the change/s you are leading?

Please consider carefully my 13 reasons why most change initiatives fail:

#1. The people charged with making the change happen don’t really believe in it and therefore their work is half-hearted at best

#2. The change program is designed to take too long and the status quo wins

#3. The expectations are unrealistic

#4. People are not genuinely appreciated when they do well

#5. People are not held to account when they fail to perform as they agreed they would

#6. Measurements of progress are poor or non-existent

#7. Desired change is actually problem solving which usually means a return to the status quo rather than real innovation

#8. Intentions, emotions, and thinking doesn’t change and therefore any behaviour change that may happen doesn’t last

#9. There isn’t a real shared-view about why the change is crucial/essential

#10. There isn’t a real shared-view on how the change will happen and who will do what, and when

#11. Leaders don’t understand all change is personal first, relationships second, and organisations third

#12. Leaders don’t personally change

#13. Broken relationships remain broken

Great leadership in partnership with great management removes all of these reasons for failure.  Crucially the first step on any journey to success is about great leadership and it is great leadership that sustains  change.  Great management supports great leadership.  Great management is very little help to poor leadership.

The people I meet generally fit into one of five categories as illustrated below. And a further general rule is that the people in the two categories on the left often don’t know that this is how their employees perceive them!

How do the people you work with perceive your attitude to change?

Change is hard say some.

I believe change is simple when we observe and adapt the principles of thriving on the challenges of change that we can see and experience every single second of every single day in the change happening to us and all around us. 

To be successful does require work and often hard work but change itself is not hard.  Consider the foal as she struggles to stand for the first time almost immediately following her birth.  Consider more the leadership of her mother inspiring her offspring to take the natural first step into life.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
John Lennon

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."
Charles Darwin

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

I work with leaders to conceive and achieve highly successful change initiatives.

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