Is change management becoming obsolete ?

Summary : change management is one of the cornerstones of organizations that need to adapt permanently. But this concept that implies that movement is the exceptions, a necessary pain, and that steadiness is the norm does not reflect reality anymore and causes irrelevant reflexes as well as it spreads wrong ideas. When change becomes the norm, things become about improve agility and make collective and individual resilience a way of life.

This is something everyone knows : change has to be managed, accompanied. Businesses understand that the enactment of a new rule, the implementation of new ways to operate, of a new tool are not self-sufficient. Thet have many direct and indirect impacts on people, bring questions and fears that need explanations and answers.

So change management has become the cornerstone of any evolution or transformation project, should it be light or massive. That’s something one should be very happy with, people having been the overlooked part of many enterprise projects for long time.The negligible variable…so the neglected one, that was supped to quietly follow without asking any question, without having any concern, for the only reason smart people have made decision for him.

But is it such a good news ? As paradoxical as it may look, the only fact we thing that change needs to be managed and driven may be a mistake that causes the opposite of progress, a kind of sclerosis organizations try to fight by…managing change. In short, change management, or rather the concepts behind, may be the starting point of a vicious circle.

As a matter of fact, if we consider the assumptions that come with the idea of change management, there’s a steady situation A, a steady situation B and that we need to manage the move, the unsteadiness that is caused by the move from the one to the other. Unsteadiness, movement, unpredictability are the the exception, steadiness is the norm. And this assumption becomes more and more deeply rooted into our minds.

But does it really look like reality, like the world and the markets as we know them today ? In my humble opinion not at all. Movement, hazards, ongoing reconfiguration of work and organizations are not the exceptions anymore but the norm. By keeping strongly alive the idea that such a situation is temporary, a necessary pain, we cause reflexes that are harmful on long term.

In a world that changes and accelerates permanently, people jump from one change management program to another. That’s could be acceptable if we consider this is a normal situation. But if we assume that that change is a painful, exceptional and temporary situation, people have the impression they’re spending their time into perilous transitions with very few steadiness zones where they can have a rest and shelter. So they find themselves in a situation of permanent fear and tension that’s much more intense than if they start with the assumption that movement is the norm. And the effort that’s asked to them is every time much more difficult that if they were in the logic of always doing small steps to adjust instead of a series of big jumps.

So, so we get rid of change management and all it implies to focus on improving agility and collective and individual resilience ?

Jack Welch used to say : ““If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” We’re right into it.



Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

Recent posts