May Change Management Have A Great Funeral

In Business Change, Digital Transformation by IRM UK1 Comment

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A good friend, an expert in Communications, has created her new website with a prominent quote of mine, ‘Change Management as we know it is dead’ in the middle of the page. A sort of funerary announcement lies bare at the centre of an otherwise beautiful minimalist site.

Photo of Dr Leandro Herrero

Dr Leandro Herrero, CEO, The Chalfont Project
Dr. Herrero will be speaking at the Virtual Business Change & Transformation Conference Europe 17-19 May 2021 on the subject, ‘Keynote: Change Management Needs a Retirement Party. Who or What Will Occupy That Space?

And that is true. It’s dead.

Trouble is, in some quarters a death certificate has not been signed yet. It’s a tricky situation. There are resistances. Some people say, what should we do now? What would we do with all those powerpoints full of multi-coloured boxes explaining the logic of those 8 steps, or 10, or whatever?

Here are some reflections for future management necro-archeologists.

  1. No revolution I know has ever hired change management consultants.
  2. In ‘change management’ one of the two words is redundant.
  3. ‘Change management’ has been kidnapped several times: IT people, Big Consulting, and Culture people to quote some.
  4. Change management has been very often indistinguishable from project management and programme management, elevating the confusion to a higher level.
  5. I don’t recall the move from childhood to puberty, to puberty to adolescent, ever being called ‘change management’.
  6. Communications professionals/agencies/divisions/functions have called themselves ‘change management’ and fooled customers with almost little resistance. So they kept going with the promise.
  1. ‘Change management’ never explained what is ‘not for change’ in a change management programme that changes things.
  2. Small detail, there is no change unless there is behavioural change. That disqualifies tons of ‘change management programmes’.
  3. I have never found one single practical idea on real behavioural change in the myriad of PowerPoints and White Papers by Big Consulting which I have examined for the last twenty years. For Big Consulting, behavioural change is an after thought. A byproduct. A naive expectation of something naturally occurring as a result of the process, systems and organizational chart change.
  4. ‘Change management’ told us how to go from A to Z in several  sequential steps. It never told us how to learn how to do it. Or whether Z could be a place where no more change management was needed, having learnt change-ability. Or how to avoid the problems that led us to the need to go to Z in the first place.  Or what kind of culture Z is. Or why is it that 75% of cases are a fiasco. Or…

A ‘discipline’ that applies to anything from cost cutting to value deployment, from CRM installation to culture change, or from process improvement to M&A, can’t be serious.

OK this is academic now, because it’s dead.

Dr Leandro Herrero is the CEO of The Chalfont Project, an international firm of organizational architects. He is the pioneer of Viral Change™, a people Mobilizing Platform in organizations, a methodology that delivers large scale behavioural and cultural change in organizations, creating lasting capacity for changeability. TCP is a UK-based, international firm working with public and private clients. Dr Leandro Herrero, who is a psychiatrist by background, spent years in top global leadership roles within companies in the UK and US. As well as his psychiatric qualifications, he holds a Master’s in Business Administration and is an Executive Fellow at the Centre for the Future of Organization, Drucker School of Management. Dr Herrero is an international speaker and has published several books on leadership, change and disruptive management innovation. His most recent book Camino – Leadership Notes on the Road launched in March this year. He also has a blog, called ‘Daily Thoughts’ where he shares his views and experience related to leadership and change.

Copyright Dr Leandro Herrero, CEO, The Chalfont Project

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  1. As Mark Twain actually said, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Change management’s death is not academic. It’s not dead. Twain’s quote applies. Though I am curious what you believe substitutes for organizational change management – the discipline that prepares, equips, and supports people going through change.

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