We are living in an increasingly complex world, and although some feel that the natural follow-on is that complex times call for complex solutions, the opposite is true. It is exactly at this time when simplicity and clarity are needed.
Change is Overengineered
In the last month, I have participated in three separate meetings with three separate clients where the goal of designing a “change management plan” or starting a “change management workstream” was noted as critical for the successful
implementation of a project to take place. In each meeting, I asked how parsing out “change management” as a separate stream of work added value to the implementation and was met with somewhat annoyed reactions for asking the question. Each person I asked was hard-pressed to articulate the business value of approaching change in this manner, but felt certain that having a “change management plan” or starting a “change management workstream” was a prerequisite for a successful implementation. I couldn’t agree less. Change management as a separate body of work with templates, charts, graphs, and workshops is a misguided concept. It has been overengineered to the point of negative value, having become more a business convention than a practice that has a meaningful business impact.
The problem with the current positioning of “change management” is that it is episodic in nature, as opposed to woven into the fabric of an organization. We are living in an increasingly complex world, and although some feel that the natural follow-on is that complex times call for complex solutions, the opposite is true. It is exactly at this time when simplicity and clarity are needed. Isn’t “change management” really more about leadership, communications, and good, solid project management than some massive body of HR science? Isn’t it more about answering the questions in people’s minds—the who, what, why, when, where, and how, and the congruence among these dimensions—than the exhaustive mapping of what is inherently a normal, human reaction to something new?
Change is a 4-letter word. It’s called LIFE. In going through personal changes in our lives, do we quickly run to a PowerPoint template and put a “change plan” together? No. When changes come into our personal lives, we adjust, we assimilate, we figure it out. Why do we not take this same spirit into the concept of organizational change? Why do we feel the need to categorize and compartmentalize, and therefore, force-fit static tools and templates into a process that is inherently organic and emotional (a word I use to denote a normal, human process, not to imply a negative value judgment)? I believe it is our own discomfort getting in the way. We spend a lot of time trying to orchestrate and manage what is a fundamentally valid and healthy process for human beings to go through. If we could shift our mindset to one that accepts change as a healthy emotional proposition rather than as something that must be managed and endured, I believe we would start from a more sustainable place in making successful changes happen inside of organizations.