Roadies moving a box on stage

It’s the last quarter of the #changeblogchallenge and the topic is Change Leadership. There’s been some great contributions.

Gilbert Kruidenier gets a bit cranky with “What Change Leadership?”

Rebecca Cattran poses the question “Who needs to lead change?”

Aldean Jakemen provides this great evolutionary perspective with Evolution of a Change Leader

And then Lena Ross, my partner in crime in the Agile Change Leadership Institute posted this beauty from her upcoming book.

Change leaders vs change managers chart

I was so grateful as I think it is hands down the clearest role delineation between change managers and change leaders. And it’s needed! Because I see a lot of change practitioners assuming the role of change leaders and this is really problematic. You NEED to have leadership on the hook for change.

I use the analogy of Roadies and Rockstars – it comes from a talk I provided at Convergence in April 2018 (and btw, stay tuned, it looks like Convergence will be back for 2020!)

Change managers (or change consultants, or change facilitators, whatever you call it) are the roadies. Their job is to do the heavy lifting.  They make the leader (Rockstar) look good. Actually, maybe they are roadies AND publicists, and wardrobe and the tour manager?  But basically, they DO THE WORK of creating change. The hard grunty work. The analysis, the strategising, the setting the right people up for success, the engaging, the fire-putter-outers. Organising workshops and making sure the environment is conducive to great conversations.

But, but…

Does it mean they are not influential? Hell no, that’s part of it.

Does it mean they are not providing a form of leadership with role modelling the change and initiating the ideas? No, that’s part of it too.

Does it mean they can’t then use co-creative approaches and models of change like appreciative inquiry? Absolutely not. In fact, it is usually the change manager who will evaluate the environment and make the recommendation to use positive psychology as a way of designing and implementing sustainable change.

But in the music world when approaches changed in how music is created and delivered (think streaming, and in the lounge room concerts), it’s often because the support crew suggested the idea, made the preparations for doing it differently, and coached the rockstar in the new way of performance.

But they are not the leaders of change in the business. They are the support crew for the leaders of the business who are accountable for change.

The leaders of change?

They are the Rockstar, we wheel them out to do the engagement, the speaking, the sharing of vision – some of them are great, they are doing pop-ups and ninja gigs, like Amanda Palmer, and working the change vision with the fans in an organic fashion.  But most of them, they’ve got businesses to run, companies to run and lots of very important decisions to make. They’ve got multiple changes to drive and they just don’t have the time to be checking attendance records to the next appreciative inquiry workshop and working out what the skills gap is in the group of employees to move to cloud-based working. All that, and there’s still the multitude of conversations that change practitioners have in order to make change happen somewhat seamlessly.

While rockstars have a sense of what the fans want and how they behave, they rely on their marketing teams to provide them deeper behavioural analysis on what will land well and what will not.

Whenever a binary / dichotomous model is put up, inevitably someone will come back with an argument about oversimplification. I get that, as above Amanda Palmer is a HUGE rockstar but behaves atypically of her ilk. It works for her.  But in my view, it’s easier and more effective to work with a simple foundation and build our own model of who does what from that.

Remember the trade-off in model creation: You can only ever have two of the three (simple, generalisable, accurate). If you are looking for something that is accurate and generalizable to multiple scenarios, it certainly won’t be a simple dichotomy.

Where I think this distinction does not work is in organisations that don’t have dedicated change management resourcing. Size matters. Here the rockstar needs to be the high profile busker and do their own heavy lifting or share it with others. And anyone who has tried it knows, life’s pretty difficult busking. You do want a roadie around.

And in signing off, how much would I love to embed Amanda Palmer’s Do it With a Rockstar clip. Alas, its NSFW.

Kind of like change managers doing the work of leaders in the organisation 😉


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