Does change management exist?
The change is a natural state for all living things and this applies to organizations like the men who compose them. You cannot manage the change, you can only experiment it or, for the most visionary of us, anticipate it. Integrating the concept of permanent change is a philosophy of life that assumes you understand and integrate the concept of impermanence of things. This also implies a belief: that everything is ruled by the law of cycle; everything is born, lives and dies and would it be a good or bad situation it will always evolve, whatever form it will take.
The main thing to understand is that considering a change as bad depends essentially on the individual’s personality. Some people « will block » because they spontaneously value security and tradition (see the typology of universal values established by the psychologist S. Schwartz) while others will be more marked by the values of autonomy or stimulation.
But then are some individuals condemned to reject any form of change other than the one that are imposed on them? Not completely if they work on self-knowledge, but it will always be more difficult for these people as change triggers fears which are not mastered because not recognized.
As Bernard Shaw said: « There are those who see things as they are and wonder why there are and those who imagine things as they could be and say … why not? »
In an organization, the change is not only permanent, but it can undermine sharply the economic survival of a large number people if it is brutally imposed by the environment, hence the importance of anticipation. Examples of learning organizations’ leaders, who integrated the notion of permanent change and adopted an intuitive, proactive and systemic posture, shows us the way. They know how to evolve fluidly between the stages of change described by theorists. Their motto: Changing for changing, it is better anticipating events rather than enduring them.
I briefly recalled the stages of change:
The step 1 refers to the validation of the need to change from a diagnosis of the different aspects of a situation: Cultural, strategic, economic, organizational, technical by setting up a permanent monitoring system.
Step 2 is that of the purpose or vision: Where do we go? What do we bring? To what needs do we respond? Why are we here? What results do we want? For Seneca, « there is no favourable wind for those who do not know where to go ». Over time, step 2 has become more and more important, more than the diagnosis or the means to implement the strategy (technology, ERP ….) because it gives meaning to actions and thus facilitates internal and external communication. It is at this level that the use of collective intelligence makes sense.
Step 3 is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. The most difficult is the diagnosis behavior. We will come back to this issue.
Step 4 is to identify actions and to implement them in order to achieve the vision. The purpose is to build one or more road maps that take into account stakeholders as well as means and resources available to the organization. This is where the differences between personalities can appear between the holders of change and others, hence the importance of the work on listening as described by Otto Scharmer, on intuition, fears, certainties and a priori judgments. Once again, the use of collective intelligence can avoid stigmatization of the individual who after all did not required such personality built upon values of security that has a role to balance some too inspired visionary flights of fancy.
Finally the fifth and final step is evaluating and monitoring through indicators.
For the strategic vision to be achieved, do not forget to communicate which implies building up a strategic communication which will engage the stakeholders through the integration of their objections, creating the conditions for feedback and ensuring that the players have understood the need to change and what is expected of them.
Do not forget also to regularly inform all stakeholders on the results obtained at each stage to maintain the level of mobilization. This is the art of management.
If the steps are known, the problem for the leader will be to manage the complexity since there is not a single project in a company but several at a time, often nested, hence the need to keep a systemic » learning » approach.