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Change Management is Dead – Long live Change Enablement

Over the years Change Management has become a standard phrase within organizations. Most leaders recognize that they need it and some are even willing to invest substantially in it. But like all things that become trendy or mainstream, it is time to reassess what Change Management is and how it is serving the needs of organizations and the individuals in those organizations.

Essentially, Change Management is dead – yes, you read that right. Change Management is dead, or at least in the traditional sense. There are many methodologies that prescribe the activities you are to initiate or the actions you are to perform. Many of these methodologies are good. Tried and true. But they no longer work, or at least not in the way they were designed to. People have actually changed. The average person at an organization going through change is already equipped in many ways to cope with and navigate change.

The current approaches or methodologies tell us change must come from the top down; that without senior or executive leadership the change will fail. Well, that change management is dead – long live the new change management.

The methodologies need to keep up. Why have the various methodologies not stayed in pace with the times? Where is the training and learning components in these methods? Can we truly change behaviours if we do not teach people how? Why do so many change management professionals say they don’t do training? Really? Or why do many of these methodologies focus on the sponsors and leaders yet, don’t provide real instruction on how to support these stakeholders by building their communication skills.

So, what should change about how we manage, lead, support or architect change?

Our demographics have changed. Top down driven change is important, but what is more important is building a change community.

1. Change should be supported from the top but driven and led from the middle.

Gallup research says that Millennials are currently the largest segment of employees in the workplace. In fact, many of them are approaching 40 years old! We all know the jokes and the negative comments about millennials, but seriously, we need to pay attention to them. We need to service them better and need to provide enriching and engaging opportunities. These are our future c-suite, our future government leaders, our future policy makers.

Millennials are generally social. They like to work collaboratively, and they have really good ideas and problem-solving capabilities. They also like community. So why are we not leveraging these innate capabilities to help support, lead and drive change? Because some antiquated methodology tells us we should be investing all our effort on the executives and senior leaders.

I am not suggesting that executives and senior leaders are not important, but they are busy and frankly set in their ways and sometimes, simply don’t have the desire to change. It’s time to evolve change management into something more practical. Let’s give the responsibility for leading change to others within the organization who want to do it.

2. Enough with the paper assessment forms and excel spreadsheets.

As a Gen-X, I admit, I like word documents, and pads of paper and pencils… but I also see that the world has changed and is continuing to change at a rapid pace. Why are we still using paper based or word document check-lists to assess the need for change? Why do we use Excel to manage a stakeholder list which needs to be manually updated by collecting a data dump from some antiquated Human Resources database? Why are we still tracking training attendance manually or lord help me, mass-printing materials for classroom training?

We live in an exciting time. The opportunity to use and leverage chat bots, machine learning and other digital, automated or AI platforms. Let’s create better tools. Let’s have an open mind and cheque book to invest in these tools. Let’s help people do more work with people instead of manipulating and analyzing data collected in a spreadsheet. Let’s have technology do that part of the heavy lifting.

3. Learning should be instant, on demand and dynamic.

There will probably always be a time and a place for person-to-person, or instructor-led classroom training. Some people simply prefer this way of learning. But a vast majority of people are happier to watch a short video that teaches how to complete a task.

Let’s encourage more User Generated Content (UGC). Let peer learning take hold and thrive.

People are always going to need support when going through change. But just like many things, change management needs to evolve. Let’s invest less in the 50 -page PowerPoint “strategy” documents and more on enabling change leadership at the middle and individual contributor level.

There are a number of staggering statistics about why change management initiatives fail, and all the reasons behind that failure. But the common theme for change success is when people are involved from the beginning and are able to identify with others who are going through the change. The average employee cannot identify with an executive. While having the executive state that the change is important may help get the change some attention, it is not what is motivating an individual to move through the stages of change – it is our peers who are the leading factor of why we choose to accept, fight or right out resist a change.

4. Start fresh and let go of your current processes and perceptions.

When undergoing any type of change, one of the hardest parts is letting go and starting fresh. This is the mindset you need to have to drive that change! Remember, change is often happening because your current processes aren’t working or aren’t competitive anymore. The pace of change is happening much faster than before so there’s no time to waste.

But what do you do if you can’t let go? Sometimes you need to make tough decisions – switching up the leadership, or bringing in others from different industries who have different perspectives. There are also consultants who are experts in this space that can provide you with guidance and resources to shift that mindset. Finally thinking positive can go a long way.

5. It’s not just about the change management. Let’s increase our focus on the people.

Many methodologies are structured and include processes to analyze data and risks. This is critical, however they often forget to focus on the people. Successful companies understand the value in engagement and how it can drive profitable growth. This is the same for change. Accountability and engagement are key - we need to begin putting our focus on people first. This includes treating them as adults and being transparent about the changes, ensuring they understand how the change impacts them, but also taking out that chequebook to invest in upskilling them, and helping them understand that only they are accountable for their own change journey. Change cannot happen without the people. We have a lot of experience supporting businesses through IT transformations and have seen the value that AI can bring. We also know that it can only be done with people managing it. Examples like this highlight the important role people play during change. Gone are the days of changing and forcing people to change.

As Harbingers, we are proud of our ability to foresee the future which includes the evolution of Change Management to Change Enablement. We’ve developed our very own Foresight™ change methodology which takes a fresh approach to managing change. It’s an exciting time for change and we can’t wait to tell you more!



Krista Schaber-Chan Managing Partner Toronto


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