I frequently find myself involved in projects or initiatives or opportunities…big or small, strategic or tactical, local or global, internal or external. And there is one thing I have learned. Avoid ‘work streams’ called Change Management.
At least I thought I had learned this. Change Management work streams are – in my experience – associated with efforts to get people to change what we do, or how we do those things…or both. Change Management involves communications, training courses and workshops…facilitated by passionate people looking to encourage, mandate, or convince equally passionate people to change our ways.
I can’t remember any time where I can honestly say my efforts on a Change Management work stream have been a success. Yes – a Change Management work stream always has ‘success criteria’ and yes – we always carry out activities as listed…only to realise that completing activities is not the same as achieving results. It takes more than a ‘work stream’ to effectively and successfully change what we – or anyone else – does.
Change Management came to mind again last week when I was on a flight to the US East Coast. The air crew seemed much more nervous than usual…and it transpired they had a ‘manager’ (from Head Office) on board with them. I realised this was the case when said manager introduced himself to, and welcomed on board, the young man sitting next to me (we had swapped seats) – a mix up that lead to our conversation…
In our brief conversation, the manager recounted that part of his ‘mission’ was – yes you guessed it – Change Management…and he flew at least once a month to help first hand with his initiative. I thought briefly about passing on my experiences…but decided it wouldn’t be helpful at that time and in that place. But I still thought it – his Change Management work stream was unlikely to succeed.
In many ways it wasn’t a surprise to find out the airline was trying to implement a change management project. Most of us have something – big or small – that we are trying to change, or make happen, or achieve, at any particular time. But my philosophy remains the same – to do whatever I am trying to do or achieve…without the eponymous Change Management work stream. Avoiding Change Management often involves different people doing different things and, although this can feel like it takes longer, it is the only approach that truly effects change.
And then I met my new communications partner. Someone with a very different set of experiences and beliefs. And his words of advice? Crystal clear and precise. Change Management work stream? Yes – that’s exactly what you should do if you want an initiative or strategic project to work. Change Management!
OK – I was confused. I pushed back and recounted my experiences. But he stood firm. Change Management – that’s the answer. In truth he had to take me through his logic several times before I worked out the subtlety of his message…
…that the way to succeed in managing change….is to change (the) management!
In my version, ‘change’ was the noun – change is the thing we are looking to manage. In my communication lead’s version, ‘change’ is a verb – change is the thing we are doing (to management).
Obvious really. And correct. But astute. Any successful project or initiative is all about people and we often involve people with a ‘different view’ – in transient or full time roles – because they will do different things…and because they will do those things differently.
Or maybe because they will see and say things differently…just like my new communications lead….