Change Management has gone through some stages (and has many left).
Early on it was OD, Organizational Development. Changing was about development and skills.
That led to theories and research based on motivation, systems and efficiency. That period felt very formal, very theory based (which is usually true when a pursuit is exploring and building credibility).
The heaviness of theory led to “theories” based on other things. The Kubler-Ross five stages fad comes to mind.
At some point in any pursuit a vacuum of possibility opens up and things get really informal. Someone comes up with an approach that is simple, easy to communicate and so very sell-able. (With the knowledge we have now I would not urgently rush out to follow certain approaches). This thing that fills the vacuum is marketed as simple and sold as a model. (In my hidden example 8 steps that HAVE to be in order). Simple models with great marketing support always grab evangelists. That is when it gets formal as they insist on sticking to the model despite any signs that things might not be working.
Success breeds competition (and lack of success for the first wave makes for more competitors). MORE models come along for change management. If you can come up with a new shape, color or diagram (see 91 to 134 on this list) you have your change model.
Then comes the backlash to the formal. No model fits everywhere. Smart change leaders began to ask themselves, “what do I REALLY need to do to get this to work”. The answer is often informality. Can you connect in person with more people? Can you support anything you are doing formally with informal connection? Can you get to the individual level more?
The Informal List:
- The change owner to individuals. This is the most difficult and most effective.
- Others to individuals. Call them “Change Champions” if you want. Just make sure their connection is honest and truly connects end states to work and vice versa.
- Individuals to individuals. Causing this to happen means you are doing the right thing… or not. Word travels fast. Set up an approach that takes advantage of that. And, yes, support that with a formal structure.
- Individual to group. Brown bag lunches, surprise executive visits, informal Q & A sessions, anything that casually presents the change and allows for interaction.
- Integrated in to operations. There are times when it makes sense to separate out change. There are many times when it makes sense to smartly integrate the change process into the regular operational process. Your change will need to hang on and sustain at some point. It makes sense to start the integration at the most informal level- day to day work.
- Re rinse. This is a list of five that can repeat itself. Going back again with each informal approach carries new information and brings back the interpretation of that content, explanation and dialogue.