It’s time for new school change management

Jun 24, 2021

The world is shifting.

The workplace is shifting as people value flexibility and expression. Coming in for a paycheck doesn’t cut it anymore. The natural consequence of economic instability is that long-term service and loyalty aren’t as valuable for employers or employees as it has been in the past.
It’s time to rethink change management. I’ve advised and mentored countless leaders over the last two decades, and there’s an ever-present feeling that you have to be the one who steers the ship. This feeling gets perpetuated even built into old-school formal change management.
As outsiders get involved – whether HR, external consultants, head office, so the leader loses the elements of connection and even more so of choice. Even in the most functional environments, team members will recognise a corporate direction; they’ll understand how their efforts fit into a global framework. That doesn’t always mean that change is easy to manage, let alone administer.
A great example here might be of an NHS organisation that operates to support patients’ health and well-being. Team members are selected based on their skills to enhance that offer and, more often than not, see that as a vocation. So with all that, isn’t change easy?
Sadly, neither in a small provider environment nor in a large corporate hospital setting.
Global thought leaders, including John Kotter, will advocate a burning platform to push change, and there has never been a hotter platform than now. But change is still more imbued with friction than with traction.
In a nutshell, power and politics are abundant, and while I bring out the NHS as an exemplar, it’s not just a public sector trait. People will fight for their jobs, their team, their patients, their familiar routine. People will fight to protect scarce resources through mistrust for a different future than today, through fatigue, even in the most mission-driven setting. There’s a hidden web of power – due to authority, personality, legacy, cliques that lie beneath the surface, which is why old school change management fails to stick. Even more corrosive is the success of a change programme can hinge on the success or failure of successive years of change.
It’s time to move forward and create a new school of change management. Let’s take the first principles – our understanding of motivation theory and change management models and imbue with more heart. More recognition that organisations are more like living, breathing organisms and not as quickly distilled into organograms as we’d think.
That takes boldness, and my upcoming change without the pain course will strip back the layers to help any emerging leader learn and move on from past leaders’ failed attempts.
This new model openly values the humans within the process. It embraces a more distributed power and authority by inviting different voices to the tables. It advocates a more profound sense of authority and ownership than ever understood by managers to unlock authenticity.
It’s a new manifesto that imbues confidence and commitment in every functional element. The world needs businesses who can optimise and grow talent, provide safety to innovate genuinely, and are in touch with the community they serve, not just the shareholders.

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