Change Management | Are you breaking Rule 1?
People don’t look for consultants when change projects are going well. The only reason we get called in is because change is going badly.
Now, stating the obvious, failure can be related to a heady mix of behaviours, processes and structures. However, when we start unpicking the Gordian Knot of blame, we tend to find people pointing the finger to culture: “it’s the culture of the place”; “it’s just the culture around here”; “it was always going to fail because of the culture”.
We immediately ask people to stop using the word, “culture” and replace it with something else. Invariably, the narrative changes to behaviours: “people resist change”; “department X just won’t cooperate…” Dig a little deeper and you find a problem common to many projects, nobody explained why the change was needed in the first place.
Typically, change is decided in a closed room, where the reason for change is not clearly understood, agreed or communicated by all concerned. For example, we’ve been working on a project for the last year where the management team expected a consultant to come in and make change happen. However, never mind who we spoke to, nobody could clearly explain why change was happening in the first place. There was waffle, meandering rationales, that sort of pointed to a rationale, but nobody could clearly and succinctly explain the reason why they wanted to displace existing behaviours, process and structures.
Think about that word, displacement. Fundamentally, change displaces something that already exists. Change in organisations involves adults. A key characteristic of an adult learner, any person in an organisation going through a change learning process, is that they want to know why change is expected at the individual, group, team and organisation level. If you can’t explain why to the individual, change is seen as displacement that needs to be resisted.
So, if you want to save money on consultants, follow Change Management Rule 1: Never start a change project until you can explain why it is needed to the individuals, groups and teams involved.