This Year’s Change Conference-Wonderfully Disillusioned

It is Wednesday. So I am Wonderfully Disillusioned.

I spent the earlier part of the week at the ACMP conference. This is the spot to go for change management thought, exchange and knowledge. Or it is supposed to be. This week makes me feel like CM is in some sort of arrested development-or reverting back to some previous state.

One session talked about change management silo’s. No not client and internal silos that get in the way of change-silos within change approaches, specifically “OCM” work. Practitioners (at least the internal ones) have copied the things they are supposed to be addressing.

Many of the sessions talked about internal change entities with lots of fanciful ways to “report”. At a panel presentation, when I whispered, after someone else’s  question, “who would this change group report to”, “THE CEO”, there was elephant-in-the room-laughter and then an uncomfortable pause while the panelists re-crafted their answers. They all knew they did not report to the CEO and should.

There was lots of talk about gaining sponsorship of executives and building capacity and influence internally. You know like the conference 5 years ago. I had too many deja-vu moments and not because solid change management approaches were being reiterated with fresh faces.

The keynote talked of brain research (without ever really showing the actual studies) that emphasized fear and reward as if we are all out hunting Mastodons… much like five years ago when the conference had another name. Research with assumptions is research with the intended result- not necessarily something that is usable (sellable yes). Clients beware any company created in tangent with “research”.

I write this before our panel. We are hoping to spark some creative (and possibly inward looking) thought. Maybe some wonderful comes out of that exchange.

Where is the wonderful now you ask?

  • The conversations at the tables. One attendee, after an animated discussion about things that are not being presented at the conference, said to me, “this is what I came for, where do I get this?” The Change Management profession suffers from a debilitating (soon if they do not change themselves) groupthink. Comments like this show some questioning is going on behind the scenes. That is WONDERFUL.
  • The interest in internal capacity/capability and external voices. I am, of course, thrilled that to a person there is agreement that externals bring a voice. When those voices are future facing, empathetic to the current environment and with status quo breaking tones things are wonderful.
  • Change Management is growing. Growing influence. Growing acceptance. Growing in general. That is wonderful. (I purposely left out growing capability- see the first paragraph).

This years change management conference has shown me that much of the CM space has become a mirror image of the things practitioners are supposed to change. That sells. Judging from aside conversations and interactions away from the formal presentations this will change. That will be wonderful. I will be back next year, hopefully to be a part of that.

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