Templated change approaches, usually a stirred bowl of Kotter and Lewin with new synonyms (it’s not unfreezing in our model it is “dissolving” or “thawing”- Kotters’ round two even uses an iceberg analogy… and we have 7 steps instead of 8) are popping up everywhere.
Changing the words does not change the effects of the approach. Not changing the approach keeps the results the same.
The echo chamber that is Change Management, thanks to a lot of guru marketing and the ease and safety of this kind of CM practice, keeps these models and model versions multiplying. (the results keep me busy).
What is a practitioner to do when dropped into these environments?
- Call Out Negativity
Change approaches are almost always based on a present to future perspective. That is negative. Period. Is that the way you want your change to start from the first word spoken? Call this out practitioners. And if you have no idea what I am talking about, slow down and think. Asking someone to change by illustrating all the things they are doing wrong is a losing battle (and it is a battle, I know I do homework with a middleschool-er… feels the same as my real work sometimes).Replace that negative approach with one that figures out where you are going with this change, works backward and ALWAYS sees the change in relation to end states and goals. You will spend some time getting people to understand this subtle, but powerful difference. It is WELL worth the effort. This you CAN do.
- Explain the Change Process
No not the one, templated, stepped models are based on.The REAL change process that involves people, structure, leadership and communication. That is the one that fails when root causes within each of one of these categories are not addressed. Even the smallest change likely has a root cause component that MUST be addressed if you are ever to call this a success.This change process addresses each of these areas. In a perfect order of assessing and addressing you would have: leadership, structure, people with communication as a constant bow around the package. You will usually be forced to start with people, do lots of communication that has no real connection, try to address structure and run the obstacle course to get to leadership. What you CAN do is to try to get your change process explanation to top leaders as quick as possible. On the way you may be able to have coffee with those in between, to give a slightly tweaked version of the explanation. This you CAN do.
- Develop Ownership
If you can connect with the person who is paying for this- the owner- early on, you will be well ahead of the change game (and right on target for the correct change process). Now the key is to get them to understand this change and its end state from their own eyes (and emotions, and energy and motivation). Once that is accomplished and you have a good short message have them do the same turned in a different direction explaining from someone else’s shoes.The owner should understand and be able to communicate genuinely the vision and what that means in terms of a person and work (so people and lots of work). This isn’t easy to get to and it takes some humble confidence, but it is entirely possible. This, may not be easy, but you CAN do it.
- Map out Connection
Get out of the spreadsheets!
Some goofy progression through awareness, willingness and resignation (or whatever your completely subjective synonyms for a made up transition are) wastes the little time you have as a practitioner. MAP this out. In a picture. As a chart. On a white board. Anywhere as long as it is pictorial. If you are doing change from a spreadsheet you are likely missing everything that is important for change. And you are really a project manager.Once you have that map make the necessary connections (this might be a list so you have permission to go into the spreadsheet or any other list storing software). Be on the lookout for the connections needed to address our categories above (especially leadership and structure). There is a reason people do what they do and it is NOT because they “naturally” resist change. That map will help you find out why people do what they do in this organization. Use the map to help them “do”different tied to end states, goals and the change.THAT you CAN do. And if you do that you can call yourself a change consultant (or practitioner or agent or your favorite label).
Four steps, big ones yes, that you CAN DO for change.