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What's Changed about Change Management?

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

Photo Credit Ross Findon on Unsplash

A few years ago I stopped using the term change management because I kept meeting Change Managers who were failing in their roles of MANAGING change. Being brought into an organisation or a project that was falling apart, became a great way for me to make a lot of money, but “fixing” change initiatives that go wrong soon became boring.

Time and time again, I would hear this frustrated cry:

How can it be going so wrong when we are doing everything right!

When reviewing their change management plans – clients were doing everything ‘technically’ that is required for a change program to be successful. If you search online for change programs, they all tend to have the same methods within them (in fact here is one that I have designed and used myself).

Alongside their solid plans, they could also show me evidence of an adequate budget for the plan, a change management team representing the organisation with good decision-making models, a communications plan that used various channels to reach the diverse needs of staff, some even design a special place for Change Labs and Brainstorming sessions. They could even show the WHY for the change (go, Simon Sinek! )

So what was causing the continued failures – and dare I say, will continue to cause failures in change programs?


Why Authentic Bravery?

First, can I tell you a story about someone close to me who decided to be truly authentic and truly brave about a very significant change that he was required to drive in his business?

Picture Janet, sitting in her kitchen eating breakfast flicking through her phone before she was about to head off to work. An email titled CHANGE came in, and there was a “voice-memo” attached. It was from her big boss, the one above her actual boss – and you always pay attention to emails from the big boss! So she immediately clicked on the play icon.

“Hi Janet” (she almost fell off her chair at this point, because her big boss used her actual name, did he do that for all the staff? – there were lots!)

“It’s Dirk here”, (short pause, you could almost hear him take a big breath……)

“In one year from today, you are going to get another piece of communication from me, and it will be one of two things. It will either be an invitation to the biggest celebration our business has ever had, or it will be my letter of resignation because I will have failed you in the change that I am about to initiate.”

The rest of the message went on to explain the what, the why and the how of the change – all the usual things that are required to ensure Janet was able to know the best way forward for herself and her team.

I know about this story because Dirk was my brother. His change was successful, but oh my, it wasn’t easy – I got to have an honest insider’s view of this change (it was some time ago now). I have since continued to have insider’s views of leaders in change, and none of them have it easy – but I do believe I know the difference between the ones that genuinely worked (remember the 70% failure statistic).

Authentic Bravery – Dirk’s team had completed a comprehensive Change Management Plan (similar to what I have written above), but somehow he knew that he needed to do something to show his staff that this was a big deal – he had to take a risk by putting some “skin in the game”. He didn’t want his people to feel this was a gimmick – so he had to do something which they would see was authentically him.

After taking some time to examine himself first (and he also spoke with his family) – he decided that this was his best way forward. Without realising it at the time, his initial communication, and subsequent behaviours built a sense of overwhelming trust with his staff.

But who is actually the brave one? The person managing the change or the person who has been invited to participate in making the change work? I will leave you to ponder this. Please feel free to give your answers in the comments section provided.

Authentic Bravery is a key attribute that leaders need to have today, not just in change, but in all business interactions. When your words and actions match, your business will do well, and you will have loyal staff and customers who will trust you, and who will ride the ups and downs of business changes with you.

By the way - I proudly use the term Change Manager now, as I think they (we) are pretty cool people doing some pretty amazing change things.

My Next blog will focus on a Human-Centered Approach to Change where I will provide you with a methodology to assist you in your next change. If you can't wait till then, please email make contact with me here.

My best regards to you!

Shirley Reeder

Director of Brave.

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