In the past few decades, (organizational or people) change management has been a hot topic and become a corporate buzzword. Everyone seems to know they need it, yet despite the buzz, organizations continue to struggle to manage change.
Here are a few facts about change:
Change is happening all the time.
The impact of a change is different depending on what the change is, when it is happening, how it is being received, and whether it is imposed or solicited.
Change occurs at the individual level, one person at a time – it’s these individuals who become the catalyst for an organization to change.
The terminology, tactics, tools used, and methods employed, need to adapt.
What do you think of when you hear the word manage or management?
At best, it implies that something will be controlled and put into a nice, structured box or checklist. But at worst, it suggests that it is outside of one’s control or within someone else’s sphere of influence, which can breed fear, mistrust, and apathy.
A definition search on the term manage, reveals the following:
To deal with something
The process of controlling things or people
To handle, direct, govern, or control
But all changes regardless of the reason for the change, impact people. However, people should not be managed, handled, or controlled. People should be inspired, feel connected, and be enabled.
“To manage is to control - to enable is to provide the opportunity to make meaningful change possible.”
Greg Roth, Managing Partner
The Evolution of Change Management to Change Enablement
The idea that change management needs to change is not new – I first started reading about it back in 2014 or 15, and it continues to be a topic of conversation in publications such as Forbes and HBR about how change management is dead. I have even written a couple of blogs on the topic. While change management isn’t actually dead (there is a lot of good work being done in this important field of work), it does need to be shaken up and rejuvenated. We should continue to use what works but discard the antiquated processes and tactics and supplement our toolkit with something more practical, more empowering, and more sustainable.
This starts with how we talk about and support change. In a world where there is literally something changing in our lives every day, we can no longer try to manage it as if it is a “thing”. I am not sure it is even something that can be led. Change is fluid, relentless, and often overwhelmingly hard. It is also personal, even when it’s a work-related change. Every single person who is impacted by a change decides to change or not to change. Welcome Change Enablement. The word enable, by definition, gives someone the ability, authority and/or means to do something. Basically, change enablement gives individuals the power to own the change and be accountable for their own change journey and adoption. So, when we talk about change, we should want it to be perceived as an opportunity instead of an imposition.
“Change Enablement makes it possible for something to happen or exist by fostering the necessary conditions.”
Krista Schaber-Chan, Managing Partner
Ensuring People Have the Right Skills to Champion Change
Change Enablement is about the person going through a change. Think of the middle people managers, front-line workers, and individual contributors who are often told a change is coming but are rarely involved in the discussions, the planning, or are not asked for their thoughts on the impacts. Decisions are made about them and for them. They are told when to change but not actually encouraged or empowered to navigate the change, so they tune it out, try to derail it or resist it. Where traditional change management drives change down from the top, keeping things on task, and overseen by some broader plan, Change Enablement strives to ensure people have the right skills and perspectives to assess the change coming at them, and respond with leadership, rather than resistance and avoidance.
Whether the change is being driven by a leader in an organization, supported by a change management professional or experienced by individuals, change enablement is a requirement in the updated change management toolkit.
Traditional change management will continue to have a place but maybe it’s time it stepped down. Rather than focusing on the old “top-down” messaging and directives like change management does, Change Enablement levels the playing field. Many formal leaders in the organization are either not equipped to inspire when a change is happening or are already burdened with a heavy load and cannot support the change the way it deserves. Let’s reimagine change; how we think about it, how we talk about it, and how we flourish through it, by putting on our Change Enablement lens.