On a client engagement some years ago, a change leader guiding a team through a large, complex transformational change said to me: “We’re in the dip. I’m doing everything I should be doing, but how long will it take?”
Change practitioners, like this client, typically have a good understanding of change management models and draw from a range of concepts to help manage their people and stakeholders through change. So this question came as a surprise.
As I thought more about it, I realised that while existing methodologies – such as Kotter, Prosci, PCI, Kubler Ross Curve and Agile – help us understand what we are seeing and what we should be doing, they weren’t adequately assisting change managers to maintain momentum when stuck in the waiting game of change.
If we take a quick look at the history of change management, we can see the value of methodologies developed for managing incremental change. However, to tackle the large scale, complex transformational changes that organisations face today, we see the need for a more dynamic approach. Organisations need to be able to manage change in real time.
Brief history of change management
1960s: The Diffusion of Innovations concept was established, inspired by the adoption of agricultural technology to improve on traditional practices. The categories of Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards were introduced. The focus was on communication channels and exploring themes of critical mass and the tipping point.
1980s: The Management Consulting era, where the change management industry was born in earnest. As the technology innovations have quickened, so has the speed of change and the need for efficient and effective adoption. The idea of the ‘burning platform’ was introduced and inspired new methodologies and change practices throughout the 1990’s.
2000s: For many, the rate of change felt insurmountable. Many leaders were frustrated with top down failures resulting in more widespread use of a change leader to manage the people side of change. In more recent years we have seen a prevalence of standardised approaches, with training and accreditation to up-skill individuals’ understanding of change.
Recently: There has been a trend to manage change in-house with external consultants used to provide more of a training and support model. There has also been a recent shift to acknowledge the scope of change programs as transformations of organisations.
Today, organisations are being driven to change from many angles: industry, technology, people, stakeholders and markets, all at an unprecedented rate. The linear, incremental approach that has served us so well in the past, is not keeping up. And the effort invested in incremental changes that are often obsolete by the time they are implemented, is consuming organisational energy and resources (both people and financial).
So to keep pace with all of the current pressures, how do we manage change differently?
Adopting a Dynamic Change Model
The answer is by shifting organisational thinking from the time-bound, step-based approach that is typical of many of the traditional methods to a culture of dynamic, real-time, continuous improvement.
- Traditionally, change methodologies have identified what people generally experience (denial, awareness, exploration, engagement) and what associated activities to undertake (stakeholder analysis, impact assessment, communications plan), but a direct correlation of the two is missing.
- The real time approach identifies what people are saying and why they are saying it, which automatically tells leaders how to respond and when to undertake which activities. Using this approach ensures that the steps taken are relevant, so that resources are targeted, efficient and effective.
There is a method that supports real time change management. The Transformation3 model has been developed by OnSong Group to fill this need. It captures what is actually occurring when individuals and organisations are transforming. It then provides practical activities that align and respond to what people are experiencing, helping to maintain momentum through to a changed state.
It doesn’t replace all of the existing wealth of knowledge in the change management space, but rather joins them together with a simple model to balance the elements. It provides the ability to assess and respond, in real time, to the needs of the organisation as it is transforming. On a very practical level, it fills the gaps in existing change management methodologies.
Miranda Jensen is a specialist in Transformational Change and an Envisian Associate