Change From the Outside In
For all of those who claim that we need to get better at change management, I have some bad news for you: You can’t actually manage change.
I’m addressing the dimension of organizational change here, obviously—the challenge of transitioning to a new state of operating, whether implementing new processes, systems, structures, roles or (for the very ambitious) cultures. You can totally manage scope change; most just don’t, at least not proactively and well. But organizational change is a different thing entirely, and a far, far greater challenge, one that defies management.
People do attempt to manage change, mind you. It’s just that those efforts very rarely produce anything close to what was intended, and seldom create outcomes that are lasting. That’s not to say that change doesn’t happen. It is just that change is far less likely to be the product of deliberate, intentional design than it is to be reactions, responses, self-protective behaviors and unintended consequences.
A project that I audited several years ago was an exceptional case in point. The original program had three separate projects, and a business case that—while compelling—only produced value after the third project was done. As lived experiences go, the project was described as a nightmare while it was underway, and far worse once it was
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