Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

“What’s Missing in Organizational Change Theory and/or Practice?”

Question posted on LI by Rick Maurer, author and consultant. My answer, skewed towards realization of change:

1.  The Business Case for CM. Wait, hear me out.

 Firstly, we speak in our own language using words that look familiar to the average business person but often mean different, very specific, things to us (e.g. ‘adoption’, ‘resistance’ even ‘communication’).

 Secondly, there seems to be a chasm between those  in business who ‘get it’ vs those who don’t – and our use of language only impedes the discussion.   At the risk of generalizing, those who focus on ROI or installation (often Project Managers and Operational Leaders) who have ‘grown up’ in chain of command cultures strongly believe that people will do as they are told, believe that once they understand they will convert.  And therefore these Project Leaders see no need for additional capabilities.  Any failures or short falls are attributed to insubordinance or ignorance – those problem people are fired and more compliant people hired.  Enough of such failures (and their substantial costs) and these Project Leaders might begin to wonder if there might be other ways.

 So, to your question, IMHO the first thing that is missing is the “Brief”, the Executive Summary of the compelling business case for Change Management – in the audience’s language, in their context.  And, by the way, surveys will not get us there. Project Managers and Operational Leaders want some hard facts – the good news is once they ‘get it’ they often become enthusiasts.

 2.  An holistic approach

There are many, multi-disciplinary, capabilities required in executing transformational change including:

  •  Leadership and Strategic Planning (e.g. Vision)
  • Strategic Marketing, Organization Design and Development (e.g. Culture and Capability), Business Process Re-engineering, Technology Implementation
  • People Change Management (PCM), Training and Communications
  • Project Design and Management

 Again IMHO, Change Management is not actually any single one of these:  ‘change’ only happens effectively and efficiently when these are ALL appropriately optimized.  Perhaps worth adding, I see a differentiation between Organizational Change Management (OCM) and Project Change Management (PCM) (more here)- different competencies that must be aligned. Further, there are too many practitioners promoting their own area of experience, e.g. leadership training, as it if alone is the silver bullet. 

A broader and deeper CM “map” is required – and unless and until we get good at 1 and 2 the perception of our value add will continue to be misunderstood and underestimated, as well as under-deployed and mis-applied.  Of the few good resources I have found recently include “Change the way you lead Change” and “Switch” (“Switch” because the authors demonstrate rather than explain) (full info and other resources are shared here).  Of the practitioners who ‘get it’, in business terms, and publish their leading thoughts, in ‘business’ terms, it is worth noting Luc Galoppin.  Eager to hear if others have found great resources.

 3. Accreditation

Establishing a qualified CM resource in a Program goes a long way towards getting the benefits of CM.  The problem is how do you find one or know him / her when you see them?

 There are degrees and certifications for almost every profession (MBAs, diplomas, designations) and professional bodies for almost every discipline.  Yet how would a buyer begin to evaluate a legitimate, qualified and experienced Change Management professional? Yes, one can compile a list of OD, HR, PM, etc qualifications and bundle them but this is inadequate.  So much of the work we do today is based on ‘good judgement’ – this is (my new favourite acronym) TBU (true but useless).  I understand that there is a fledging effort underway here

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