How to inject life into the change management process: first, stop calling it 'management'

Rather than foisting change on employees, increasingly social networked businesses are fostering change through informing, enrolling and adapting.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Change can be scary and threatening. But it also can be fascinating, it can be interesting, it can be energizing. At the very least, it's a learning experience.

So why do so many organizations make "change management" a dull, bureaucratic edict? You know the routine -- defining a change management strategy, identifying and documenting a problem, assigning a committee or two to come up with solutions from which the CEO picks one, and then attempting to mandate and propagate that change down through the ranks with memos and staff meetings.

That's the old way. Maybe the emerging social networking culture offers a more spirited, cooperative way of instilling changes.

Gartner's Mark MacDonald recently made the observation that change these days is being driven more "by information and communications rather than leadership and vision." The impetus for change is increasingly coming from the social aspects of business such as collaboration and networking. This is versus the more systematic process of identifying the problem, developing a solution, and promoting adoption across the organization.

Instead of having solutions to problems foisted on employees or team members, MacDonald suggests that they collaborate in a transparent way in all phases of the change to weigh options and arrive at commonly accepted solutions. People are more receptive to change because they are part of the process, versus passively submitting to mandates from above.

Of course, this doesn't make the jobs of today's executives and managers any easier. As MacDonald put it: "The ability to manage and lead change is no longer based on messaging, communication and traditional sponsorship. Rather it is based on processes of informing, enrolling and adapting that is significantly more disruptive and difficult to manage for executives and leaders."

There's also the movement toward "design thinking" as a way to approach problems more systematically. Design thinking encourages companies to bake innovation thinking into the day-to-day processes of employees. The more informal information-driven change management MacDonald suggests fits into this concept, since team members are active contributors to the process.

(Photo by Joe McKendrick, team experience on Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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