Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Reflections on defining “Change Management” – Killer Value Proposition

Recently, in several global Communities of Practice, many different interpretations, and mis-interpretations, of Change Management have been debated. The breadth of definitions is quite incredible (from “Leadership” to “Implementation Metrics”) as is the depth of any single component (such as “Change Communication”). However, the “ah ha”, for me anyway, is that the past does not yield the Killer Value Proposition – that lies in the future: change is changing and Change Management must change.

All of us reached back – into our education, reading, experience. And there is a treasure trove of value there. But I cannot help thinking that the problems we need to solve – helping organizations anticipate, prepare for and optimize change – have changed. Not to be coy, but “change” has changed. Faster, deeper, etc. Added to the extraordinary and increased complexity of organizations today ….

I wonder if these conditions add up to making our old tools are inadequate – either alone or even, in some cases, combined. Certainly, in most cases, any ‘change management’ is better than none – but what would be optimal? Leadership + communications + training + + + +. Would that be enough?

I mentioned “Glimmer” (Warren Berger) in a previous post but just want to reference a quick quote: “What I’m hearing from top Fortune 500 executives is that they know how to make just about anything—but they don’t know what to make.”—Patrick Whitney, design and business strategy guru.

If the goal posts are moved from ‘implement this change’ to ‘develop an organizational capability to let go of the past, imagine and reach for the unknowns in the future, develop the fortitude to experiment ….’ What would we call this? It is more than ‘leadership’ and more than ‘management’ – it is culture + process change + + …. There is no single role in an organization today responsible for this – many roles have an important part to play, including every leader, but I am reminded of the story of “Whose job is it? (Everybody, Somebody, Nobody)” (available here

If this is the kind of thinking required to move our economies forward then as change practitioners we too need to adapt. Using old, sometimes too familiar, names and catch phrases does not convey the value that needs to be driven. I certainly don’t propose to know the answer but I am intrigued to know if anyone else is thinking along these lines – what would you call this organizational competency?

2 Comments so far
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Gail – I am three years late in reading your fine post. But sadly, it is as timely in 2013 as it was in 2010. I think a lot about the question you raised. And I do agree that change has indeed changed. But, what hasn’t changed is the human part in all that. Yes, people are working harder and on more things, but still the problems that tripped up leaders back in 1995 when I first started writing about change (Beyond the Wall of Resistance 1996, 2010) is still tripping them up today. Leaders fail to take the need to engage people seriously. They nod that it is important, then inflict 150 densely packed PowerPoint slide shows on staff. And because they leave time at the end for Q&A they think they have gotten people involved. .

Comment by rick maurer

Hello Rick. So grateful to hear your thoughts. I totally agree “what hasn’t changed is the human part in all that”. When I hear practitioners talking about ‘no such thing as resistance’ it makes me quite sick. The fundamentals of psychology just don’t evolve over 10-100-1000 years.

And your comment “They nod that it is important, then inflict 150 densely packed PowerPoint slide shows on staff. And because they leave time at the end for Q&A they think they have gotten people involved.” feels like “Groundhog Day”. There seems to be a mental plateau that we need to find ways to break through – that it what intrigues me – keeping the fundamentals and taking it to the next level. I think we are on the same page.
For any readers who are unfamiliar with Rick’s great work check out

Comment by Gail Severini

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