Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Change failure?

What are the first words that come into your mind when you hear the word.... “Change”.....

                                  ....what about “Change processes?"


In my experience of asking leaders these two questions at workshops, we get a real mix of both negative and positive associations...

Often change processes are associated with negative experiences......it's quite a loaded term.  I met someone last year who when asking him what his role was replied; "I've been a change manager for the last 15 years – it's not a pretty job but it’s got to be done.......


Likewise "change proposals" are greeted with cynicism by staff who often believe that the simply a legal requirement to be seen to be consulting with staff when in fact decisions have already been made.....   Unfortunately these seemingly participative processes are little more than motivational devices.....Pascale (2005) describes them as social engineering and suggests that it's better not to ask for staff input at all, than to ask for their input then ignore it.....


Even the language used is often indicative of negative change processes....consider the often heard term in leadership literature, "driving change".   Clearly in this model change is a top down or forced  process.  If you think about this a little further, it's clear that the leaders assumption is that people don’t want to change – organisations don’t want to change, and that change has to be driven.  Gary Hamel in his book “The future of Management” summarises this paradigm....

         "If you allow people freedom to innovate – discipline will take a beating"

What we often see this deteriorate into colluding beliefs – where bosses think that staff will 

deteriorate unless I manage them and tighten up procedures and maintain discipline, and simultaneously staff beieve that theiir bosses don’t trust them, and are out to get them in some cases.  

Little wonder that according to recent research; 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their purpose...  How many times have we seen a leader say “such and such will happen  “ but the inertia of the organisation resists it – and sure enough, a year later, it hasn't happened.....


Is there an alternative?  Can change be successful?  Even a postive experience for those involved?
We all know that the rate of change is accelerating in our 21st century world.....change is in fact....changing....

Hence I believe that leading change is the MOST CRITICAL competency of any leader. 

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