Over the past few weeks I made some career changes that are now official. Skip to the last paragraph for the express news.
Alternatively, read on for context about my decision to change (and the beginning of my vociferous campaign to change the world of change management).
Today is my 41st birthday. Although I don’t feel old I have been in business since the turn of the century and 2017 will mark a decade passing since I earned my Executive MBA degree. Like most degrees, earning an EMBA takes perseverance and a lot of hard work.
Some of my fellow graduates choose to advertise the hard work and identify the type of degree obtained, by listing the EMBA credential after their name. I’m proud of the achievement but unless actively looking for a job it feels ostentatious to write EMBA after my surname - so I don’t.
I am equally proud to be a change manager. I have seen ADKAR listed as a credential however my preference is to not list that either. I was certified in 2012 and although I respect the model, I do not believe that successful ADKAR certification alone creds or qualifies me as a change manager.
In fact, as I look back and reflect on my career it is difficult to identify one specific achievement, milestone or rite of passage that indubitably qualifies me as a change manager. Instead, I believe that the secret sauce for developing strong change managers (all people leaders actually ) is a combination of academic knowledge and real-life lessons learned via practical experience.
The role of change manager
In my experience the role of change manager is one of the most misunderstood and misconstrued in business. I have also learned that:
1. The change manager role should focus on building organizational capability and enabling managerial capacity to manage change – and not necessarily managing change itself.
2. The most effective change managers act as social engineers that orchestrate activities and equip the management level with the right tools, skills, abilities, and knowledge to execute strategic and tactical goals of the organization.
3. The most successful change managers can develop a change strategy, own change management plans, drive a change agenda and be held accountable for execution – but they never do it alone because change management is an organizational capability.
4. Organizations that effectively manage change can do so because they possess the hallmarks of a high-performance organization: agility, alignment and accountability for managing change.
The role of change manager is not circumscribed to crafting training and communication plans while singing kumbaya in the candlelight. Change managers do not use pixie dust or potions to influence stakeholders and/or eliminate resistance to change.
However, if we consider the pervasive misconception that change managers are solely responsible for successfully managing organizational change – believing in magic may not be such a stretch. Change management is an organizational capability. Change managers support the development of that capability. Management manages people. People change. No magic.
I believe that change should be managed by your people – not by external consultants. I also believe that the process of building change management capability begins with effective training that is underpinned by specific and deliberate follow-up activities to ensure that the training knowledge is put into action, and translates into measurable results.
However, I also recognize that building enterprise change management capability requires significant investment of time and effort and that sometimes, usually for major capital projects, mergers and/or acquisitions, additional resources might be required to boost immediate change management capability for a fixed term.
IBM conducted a study with 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries and found that 73% of all high performance organizations excel at managing change. We know that most executives recognize the need for change management, yet most organizations lack the tactical capability (e.g. management skills, knowledge, and abilities) to execute.
The most common change management execution statistic is that around 75% of all change management initiatives fail. Ask 10 managers to describe what execution of effective change management looks like – and you are likely to receive inconsistent responses laced with ambiguity (keep an eye out for references to training, communications or “working the magic”).
Part of the problem lies in a common and proper understanding of change management.
From my perspective, there is a notable market absence and a certain need for quality curriculum that melds practical change management experience and lessons learned from large-scale business transformation projects with innovative academic contributions from business elite, social science pioneers and psychology thought leaders; to enrich the existing change management body of knowledge and elevate the profile of change management as a professional discipline.
If you’re still with me – thanks for reading. I have decided to leave the consulting industry to pursue some exciting new challenges in change management.
The first opportunity is a start-up venture operating in the change management training space. The second, my full-time commitment, is with a veteran in the commercial real estate space that is embarking on some big changes that I am thrilled to be a part of.
Career changes are often described as bitter sweet. I prefer the chapter book analogy where chapters begin and end, but the characters can remain. Thank you sincerely to my former and new colleagues for your support. It has been a heck of a week and I look forward to keeping in touch as we write the next chapter.