Change management: simplifying change projects

I used to get asked to do “change management” on projects that were not change management projects.

This is annoying if, like me, you really love doing change management projects, and there are so few opportunities to do really proper change management like those you read about in change management books.

The projects I was asked to work on were often the very opposite of change management projects, they were projects designed to minimise change while something disruptive happened. They were business continuity projects with the aim of avoiding the impact of changes happening elsewhere.

The most common example I was involved in was an office relocation, where you want the impact of the move to have minimal impact on the operation. You might want to take advantage of an office move to improve some things about how you work together, but the point is that they are peripheral, you are not changing how people work in order to improve your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and therefore, although it’s a bit change-management-y, it isn’t really driving transformation of the organisation.

If we look at an organisation’s performance over time (using the KPIs as the performance measure) then a successful organisation will probably be happily motoring around the amber/green lines most of the time.

The purpose of this type of “change management” (i.e. business continuity management) is to keep the Organisational Performance (OP) line as consistent as possible despite being buffeted about by disconnected external factors (i.e. disconnected from the KPIs, and so not central to the performance of the organisation).

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A Six Step Change Management Cycle that is OK, I suppose

This is the second in my Change Management Theory suite of blog posts.

I am going through my old MBA materials and re-reading all the old bits on change management and blogging about it to reinforce the learning.

See here for the earlier post on Change Management Frameworks.

I am a little skeptical of all models and theories in business education. They are useful insofar as they provide structure and process, but they are not the be all and end all. This model (from the Open University) is fine, but I find academia increasingly confused when it comes to things as practical as change delivery. They don’t seem to know what to do with themselves.

The academic hinterland behind change management is wonderful stuff: psychology, theories of communication, adult learning, that sort of thing – but when it comes to mapping out this sort of change model, I think more practical sources such as Kotter’s “Leading Change” (link to my review of “Leading Change”) or the ADKAR model are better.

That said, I will plough on, seeing as I’ve got this far …

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Leading Change by John P Kotter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that changed my life. It got me interested in things like organisational psychology, change, management, and leadership, things I’d previously never considered worthy of my attention.

Kotter’s main thesis is to set out an 8-step structure for organisational transformation, a structure that maps clearly onto Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze change management model.

The main value in Lewin’s model is the two ends: unfreeze and refreeze, these are the phases that get least attention as most organisations simply rush to change things (without unfreezing) and then fail to embed the new way of doing things in the culture (refreeze).

This is why change management is not project management – the change project is the easy, the bit in the middle, but achieving organisational change is the whole piece.


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