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What’s the Difference between Change Enablement and Change Management?

Change Management is a commonly used term, but today, the term Change Enablement has become much more widely known. But where did this “new” term come from? And what differentiates the two? Are they the same? The simple answer is no, they are not the same.

Change Management and Change Enablement both have the same end goal of helping organizations navigate through change, but their core focus is vastly different. Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that Change Enablement evolved from Change Management to better support people through their individual change journeys. Many people believe that it’s one versus the other, however, the truth is that they are both needed in organizational change.

The Original Flavour

You could say that Change Management is the original form of dealing with change in your organization. Change Management takes a top-down approach, and it’s within these frameworks that good practices were developed. These tried structures are still useful and very much necessary to this day. However, Change Management is just that—a framework. It does not account for the development of the world and people around. Ironically, Change Management has not adapted to the changes in workplace culture, especially in the New World of Work. But, the bones of Change Management can be supported by new practices, which is where Change Enablement comes in.

Evolving from Change Management to Change Enablement

A top-down approach seems logical, but upon further consideration, it simply doesn’t account for all the levels of an organization. Many people in an organization, such as line workers for example, may be resistant to change; they’re being told to change the way they do things without knowing why. They aren’t included in project discussions, and don’t see what’s in it for them.

Nowadays, we understand much more about human psychology, and people have a stronger understanding of their rights, meaning that they will not always just do as they’re told. Change Enablement understands that people have changed, and that people have certain needs in the workplace. While Change Management’s approach is top-down, Change Enablement’s approach is people-oriented.

Things are Managed, People are Enabled

The main concern with applying a Change Management approach is that it doesn’t focus enough on the people. As we know, people are unpredictable and unmanageable, and so they must be considered in every transformation. For behavioural change to happen, people need to feel enabled and empowered. Instead of telling them what to do and how to do it, understand where they are in their change journeys and what they need to move forward.

You can’t train an employee to use new software by only assigning them to a training session. Yes, they will attend (if you’ve made it mandatory), but will they really change their behaviours if they don’t understand 1) why they need to change, 2) how the change benefits them, and 3) how they will be supported throughout their learning curve? Answering these questions is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Change Enablement. The best method of “managing” people is not managing them at all—enabling them is the way to go. Read more about the people element of Change Enablement in one of our other blogs.

What’s the Best Way to Enable Change?

Change Enablement is exactly what it sounds like: enabling people to change. How do you do this? By building accountability and helping people see the value of change and their role within it. Enabling people doesn’t only come from the top, it comes from everyday leaders in your organizations, whether they have official leadership titles or not.

While we still need our senior leaders and executives to steer the change in the right direction, the real transformation is driven by the people in the middle. So, if there’s one thing you can start doing to apply a Change Enablement mindset, it’s to give the informal leaders, influencers, and middle managers in your organization a chance to shine and lead the change.

The key concept to remember is communication. Let the people in the middle communicate within your organization so that the message of change reaches all corners. Everyone needs to have the same vision in mind so that they can strive for the same end goal. They need to understand how the change benefits the organization, and themselves by proxy. Make sure that people in your organization, and any stakeholders involved, all agree and understand the narrative of change you create within your organization.

So, Which Is It? Change Management or Change Enablement?

In short, Change Management frameworks are still very useful as the bones of the operation, while Change Enablement is essential as everything else in-between. The New World of Work has added so many new variables, which has affected how people work and prioritize elements of their work life. Change Enablement tries its best to understand the realities people face to better be address them as the world evolves around us. For more tips, check out our blog on enabling people in your organization or check out our LinkedIn where we frequently share our #ChangeEnablementTips.



Greg Roth

Managing Partner



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