🧐Change Management Can Help Leaders Be Ready for Anything, Yet Still Hit or Miss in the Workplace?Sep 19, 2023
Even after decades of research proving the value of change management, its absence in the workplace is surprisingly common. Part of the problem is that the definition is unclear. In some organizations, change management is a process to support project delivery. In others, change management is a skill competent leaders possess. The reality is that change management is both - and so much more.
Consider the iconic Swiss Army Knife. Created in 1891 by Karl Elsner, the multi-functional knife was originally designed for the Swiss Army. Recognizing the extreme utility of the tool, it was later adapted for people who, in the founders’ words, “need to be ready for anything”.
Change management, in many ways, is a like a Swiss Army Knife for leaders who need to be ready for anything. It is a multi-disciplinary practice that includes concepts, models, and tools leaders can use depending on the business situation or need. It also is a strategy for achieving business goals, a structure for enabling organizational agility, and yes, even a core competency for leaders who guide people through change.
Even so, consistent utilization of change management in the workplace remains hit or miss. The other problem is that while many change management models are available, none of them are perfect. This can be frustrating for leaders and teams, especially if they’ve gone “all-in” on one specific model or approach.
The reality is that every model has its own strengths and weaknesses, and may suit different types of changes, organizations, or contexts better than others. Common gaps and limitations of current models include:
- They are too linear and sequential. Many change management models follow a step-by-step approach that assumes change can be planned, executed, and evaluated in a logical and orderly manner. However, change is often unpredictable, iterative, and emergent, requiring frequent adjustments and feedback loops. Leaders must be able to be flex and adapt to cope with changing circumstances and stakeholder needs.
- They are too top-down and prescriptive. Many change management models rely on senior leaders or sponsors to initiate, design, and implement change, with little input or involvement from the people who are affected by the change. This can lead to resistance, disengagement, and mistrust among employees and other stakeholders. Leaders need more inclusive and collaborative approaches that empower people to co-create and co-own the change planning and implementation process.
- They are too rational and technical. Many change management models focus on the structural and procedural aspects of change, such as goals, strategies, plans, actions, and outcomes. However, change is also an emotional experience that affects people’s feelings, values, beliefs, and behaviors. Leaders must be able to address the human side of change by fostering growth mindsets, building trust, leading with compassion, and creating space for people to share and work through self-concerns.
The good news is that the tide is turning for the practice of change management, as is the perception of its utility in the workplace. Part of this is due to the availability of new research, the emergence of more adaptive methodologies, and increased options for change management training. The other reason is that many organizations are starting to build volunteer-supported Communities of Practice versus hiring large teams full of full-time practitioners. Not only does this model extend the value of change management across the organization, it also reduces the risk of people “sitting on the bench” when the pace or volume of change shifts.
In today’s environment, being ready for anything is a competitive advantage and change management provides an operating model for success. It is up to leaders to recognize the utility of change management and make it a priority in the workplace. Remember: it doesn’t need to be perfect to work, it just needs to be consistently practiced.
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