Why Change Management Should Be a Dirty Phrase

Originally published on Medium  May 30, 2016

Allow me to start by saying that much of the consulting and coaching that I do is in the realm of change management. Most clients contract myself or the companies I work with either before, during, or after a massive change has taken place in their org. So, let it be known that if change management were currently a dirty phrase, I’d probably be out of a job. I feel that’s it’s in the best interest of humanity, however, to call out that my profession should be (for the most part) obsolete.

Companies would be better off if they had no concept of “Change Management” roles, teams, or departments. This isn’t because companies should never roll out big changes or that the work provided by change managers isn’t valuable — it most certainly is, and that’s why there’s a market for it.

The reason we should be obsolete is because the best companies out there are constantly in a state of change.

We often imagine change management to be how we deal with single, large-scale implementations during a specific window of time. The problem is, these days organizations absorb and adapt to new information faster than ever before. We explore new methodologies and operating systems at a rate that has never been seen in the business world. And businesses are not just changing faster — the environment of business itself is rapidly evolving as well. Change management can no longer be a task assigned to a team of “specialists.” Sure, there is always a need for great communicators and planners to help aggregate and disseminate vital information to the masses so that they can be prepared for the future…but what makes that any different than any other day?

Long-standing, large companies (especially those whose employees are distributed geographically) struggle more and more in the modern environment — not because they don’t change, but because they simply aren’t equipped to handle it effectively. It’s like someone who only knows how to get from place to place by broadjumping. It seems attractive because it covers more ground per motion than taking steps, but more energy is expended in gathering for the jump, taking off, landing and stabilizing than if you’d simply walked few steps instead. Plus, if someone rolled a few marbles in front of you while you were in mid-air, you wouldn’t be able to course-correct. This same is true of large-scale rollouts. When we demand that employees take huge leaps at a time, we spend so much time, energy and effort making sure that everyone is on the same page that we’re forced to reject some other, possibly more meaningful changes in the process. We don’t want to confuse or overload people, or we don’t want to come across as wishy-washy. This is an increasingly absurd approach, as technology continues to take our information blinders off more and more everyday.

Now, am I saying that if we teach employees how to better handle change that there will never be broad jumps made in organizations? Certainly not. But I do believe that they will be fewer and farther between; and I believe that they will go a lot smoother than they currently do in most companies.

In today’s business landscape, the role of leadership & management is primarily to establish vision, align people to that vision, and build a path for them to achieve it. It’s my belief that in the next phase of business evolution, these roles will be primarily responsible for equipping employees to both deal with and propel change towards the established vision. Change management will be a technical skillset expected of employees, just like coding, ad-buying, or answering phones might be. And the day that happens, I’ll be out of a job. But then again, what kind of change manager would I be if I couldn’t adapt? ;)