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There's no such thing as Change Management

When I spotted the comment below on LinkedIn it got me thinking about the real perception of Change Management that can be out there, and some of the issues of the practice.

In fact this comment wonders whether there may really be no such thing as change management at all. And I don't think he's totally wrong. In fact, I actually agree with a lot of what he has to say (just maybe not the delivery!).

A screen shot of a social media post which says 'there's no such thing as change management - it's a made up discipline with an amazingly high failure rate (c.80% if some research is accurate). Why persist with the illusion we can predict and control how things change? Complexity theory holds more promise in my view - Dave Snowden's Cynefin Framework is a great starting point if you want to escape from "change management" nonsense and develop your critical thinking skills.

The "management" thing is soooooo over

Traditional change management developed since the 1940's and 50's has been all about managing, predicting and controlling, with models, methods and methodologies being pimped left, right and centre to this day. Last week I counted three new practitioner consultants who had a change framework to offer that could lead people through change successfully.

Every one of them attempts to manage people through when we actually understand that the needs of people in change are more sophisticated and in-depth than a linear process can provide. No shade to these people who are trying to make a living, but reinventing the straight line has ramifications.

No shade to these people who are trying to make a living, but reinventing the straight line has ramifications.

Time for post-methodology and multi-disciplinary

Linear, traditional (frankly lazy) change can lead to the treatment hurting more than the disease with Change Management being as damaging as the disruption and risk it was looking to reduce.

It can also lead to a lack of critical thinking and engagement from practitioners, as they follow the bouncing ball and forget to actively engage with the context, people and problem.

When the tools used don't account for exploring and understanding context, and really listening and engaging with the different people - and adapting constantly - then the entire point of change work is lost. And the value of the role seem moot to me - hence I do see the point this commenter above was making.

Cynefin is a perfect example of incorporating other disciplines and tools to adjust the Change toolset to modern needs and getting practitioners out of their linear thinking and safe, practiced spaces.

What do you think? How have you experienced Change Management and where do you think it lets itself down/lifts itself up?

We're keen to explore multiple disciplines through Change Design® to avoid falling into the trap of linear thinking - how about you?


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