Article by Monique Jordan

When I think about the practice of change management it strikes me as no longer fitting with the current conditions.

Our Change Management approaches are based on the following underlying assumptions:

  • Change is focused and isolated to an aspect our work
  • Leaders must create a sense of urgency and sell the benefits of change
  • Once the change has been made, we will go back to a new, but equally, stable environment

In a previous era, these assumptions were fitting. It made sense that our change management approach centered around getting people ready to change — introduce the change, explain the benefits, provide employees with the information and training they need and then check back after the change to close any capability gaps. A seemingly appropriate process for stable environments where employees can prepare for one change at a time and expect to return to a new stable environment.

Today, our environment is constantly evolving and change occurs on many fronts simultaneously. Advances in technology and science offer new and exciting ways of interacting with each other and our world that challenge not only what or how we do things but what we believe is possible.

At work, employees are having to manage multiple change efforts concurrently, it’s no wonder we feel stressed and overwhelmed. Our current CM approach is also overwhelming for leaders who must sponsor all these initiatives creating a sense of urgency for each. Really? When everything is urgent, nothing is urgent.

I believe the aim of change management (also sometimes referred to as change leadership) needs to shift from preparing people to change to creating environments that facilitate adaption. We are all naturally adaptive, modifying our behaviors and norms in accordance with our environment. Facilitating adaption begins with a problem that needs to be solved rather than a change than needs to be implemented and is based on the following underlying assumptions:

  • A world that is constantly evolving requires that we continually adapt
  • Employees, work-groups and process owners are accountable for driving problem resolution
  • Change is not an event but rather a natural consequence of resolving problems

If employees worked to resolve their problems (anything that gets in the way of efficiently and effectively creating customer value given the organizations business model) could it change the way we manage change?

I am not advocating a complete rewrite of the change management practice, I am suggesting that we need to adjust based on a new set of assumptions. What might that look like?

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