Just over a year ago, I gave a presentation on the Past, Present and Future of Change Management. In reference to the future I predicted we would see more of neuroscience influencing change practices, more use of social media and gamification, consolidation and centralisation of the change management profession, and increased change maturity of organisations (via building change capability).

Gotta say, I’m not seeing much movement towards this future state…it’s fair to say the shift is incremental if glacial (in a pre-global warming kinda world). I have the feeling that the field of change management is quite stagnant. It’s quite at odds with much of the talk around the need for “disruption” in business, and obviously innovation. And it has me wondering what are the disruptive forces to take effect in change management. Will there be disruption with change management? Many will tell you there needs to be – and they will cite that 70% of change management projects consistently fail. Therefore we need to radically overhaul and disrupt our practice.

While I vehemently argue against the 70% myth, I happily concede we can certainly improve on a consistent understanding of the need for change, and the considered application of change management principles and tools in advancing our organisations.

The Change Management Institute and PROSCI both put forward 5 level models for understanding change management maturity. Both these models detail the progression from adhoc application of change management, to an optimised state where change management is part of the organisational DNA. Most of the organisations we work in today are operating somewhere between level 1 – 3 with best practices evident. A few have made the move to a common methodology, but often this is leapfrog from level 2 (isolated projects using change management practices to level 4 (the selection of a common methodology which is measured and tracked). And the notable omission is the recognition of Business As Usual (BAU) change. Most change management occurs within a project methodology under the auspice of project funding, leaving a huge black hole in the arena of business based change. We have far to go in making change BAU.

Technology is slowly taking more of a role with the use of collaborative platforms, mobile, and cloud based applications, in our practice. Slowly, but surely change managers are getting on-board and realising the transformative aspects of using these technologies as opposed to the old tried and true tactics. But gee whiz, it’s a struggle! I can’t say I understand why it is that change practitioners are so averse to learning new things. It is indeed one of the great occupational paradoxes. I have long suspected that change managers go into the field as they are not so good with change and seek to control it. I guess plumbers’ houses have leaky taps too. Perhaps it should not be so much of a surprise that change managers are resistant to change in tools…

Neuroscience is increasing its influence in change – but we’re not talking more than the SCARF model in most organisations. I’m not hearing about gamification in practice, though it did make its way onto this years ACMP Global conference program. But maybe I’m off the mark? Maybe these are flash in the pan trends – not the future of change management?

And the politics and commerce of centralisation, accreditation and world domination of the change management profession within CMI, ACMP and the like have kept the profession in a state of flux. No forward movement on that score, more fun to debate and argue the merits of do we need it, who should do it, and what should it cost, than actually do anything progressive. Most experienced change practitioners I know tend to disregard the debates. Until these bodies start working out to collaborate and share power, there is unlikely to be any quantum leaps in progress here. Which I do think is a shame – there is much transformative power in working together. In the mean time, clients and recruiters continue to ask, “How do you identify a real change manager?”.

So it all feels quite incremental. A little bit ground hog day. Not necessarily transformative. So it poses the question for me, what is it that requires disruption? Is it the way we change or what we change? Do we need disruption at all? Will we be good enough with what we have, if it is just consistently understood and applied?

What do you think?

24.06.14 Update – you will see in the comments Secret Agent Provocateur Joe Gergen has weighed in with some incredibly insightful thoughts. He’s upped the ante with this post – pop over and let him know how you intend to light a fire!

related posts:

If not change, then what?

Of Change Agents, Best Practice and Next Practice



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