Why you as a Change Management team need to change too

By Puk Falkenberg, 14. October 2019

Recently I was attending a conference, where we had a small exercise asking each other questions as well as answering them. The guy to my left turned to me and asked: “Why change?” And the exercise was to only give him one answer, so I answered: “Because we need to stay relevant”.

He looked surprisingly at me, and just before the bell rang, telling us the exercise was over, he asked: “Isn’t that from a place of fear?”

The big WHY behind every change initiated – ever

The answer to the question about fear is: both and.

We need to stay relevant, and it’s both from a fear perspective and a search for opportunity and something better. You need both the fear and the opportunity.

I believe that every change, every adjustment, every innovation project, every incremental everyday development can be traced back to my answer: Because we need to stay relevant.

The why behind every change is exactly that. To stay relevant.

Sometimes this is from fear. The fear of competition moving faster than you. The fear of missing opportunities in new markets. The fear of not reaching KPI’s or the yearly 3% increase in growth.

And sometimes, it’s from opportunity, learning or simple a wish to constant develop. It’s about staying relevant to the market, to the employees and to the customers.

If organizations should succeed in staying relevant, it also implies that the Change Management team need to be up to date at all times.

Sometimes Change Managers get so focused they forget to change practice

Being a Change Management unit in a large organization can sometimes be troublesome. Often, I’m left with the impression that Change Management teams consists of a bunch of passioned people, who want to do the best for the organization, but often forget to change themselves. A people first mindset and approach to inspire and drive change, creating the best circumstances for the organization to evolve, is not enough.

Let me explain why I think Change Management teams need to change, and how and what you can do to change your Change Management practices just a bit.

The evolutionary purpose of a Change Management team should be to stay relevant

Like every team in an organization, a Change Management team need to learn new tools, new methods and develop their processes to be able to stay relevant. If the organization are moving from a classic waterfall approach to an agile approach, the Change Management team and their methods needs to change as well. Even though it sounds logical, it’s is a difficult task to crack. How do you make Change Management more agile? Or what’s the newest development within Change Management? Are people still using Kotter’s 8 steps or ADKAR?

The Change Management teams I’ve meet, have a difficult time figuring out how to prioritize these types of changes within the team, navigating the need of the organization versus the need of the team itself. And even though it should be their evolutionary purpose to stay relevant, I understand why it’s hard to prioritize.

That’s why I’ll suggest starting practicing two things: 1) Making Change Canvases (in plural), and 2) Distinguishing between working IN the business versus ON the business.

The difference between working IN the business and ON the business

Making a clear distinction between when we are working ON the business and when we are working IN the business helps you prioritize your time and effort. Let me explain the two, in the context of a Change Management team:

  • Working IN the business is where you get your hands dirty, working on projects, helping the organization change, facilitating workshop and communicating change.
  • Working ON the business is where you go into helicopter view, asking yourself how the future might look like for your team. Do we need a strategy? Do we need to learn something new? Do we need to create a new change model? Stuff like that.

Often, I’ve heard that people have the ideas to work ON the business, but that’s not where the money is, and thereby it’s not prioritized. But it needs to be. Even though it’s only 10 % – or even 5 % – of your time.

This is what you need to do

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of whiteboards and big canvases. And my solution and suggestion is to make two big canvases about change. You should also setup a rhythm on how often you’ll meet in front of the canvas. Maybe every week?

Firstly, you make a canvas for working IN the business. Here I suggest a simple Kanban board with the columns; to-do, doing and done. The rule: If you find it interesting to share with the team, then it goes on the canvas. An example could be on how you are making a workshop next week in project X, which is a huge milestone for the project.

Secondly, you make another canvas for working ON the business. This could also be a simple Kanban board, but I would suggest you add your own sections to the canvas in addition. What do you need in order to work ON your Change Management team? What do you need to learn, develop or maybe even internally brand your team?

I suggest you as a minimum have the sections: 1) Purpose and direction, 2) insight and learnings, and 3) successes.

List your “IN” and “ON” tasks

If you’re like most Change Management teams, you’ll have an overweight of tasks you already do IN the business, and an overweight of wishes ON the business.

Last thing to do is having a discussion on whether your focus is right. Do you need to work more ON? How much time should be prioritized on each? Do you need a “head of IN the business” and a “head of ON the business”, to make sure you prioritize both?

In short, to make changes to your Change Management practices:

  1. Make two canvases of working “IN” and “ON” your business.
  2. List tasks divided to the two canvases.
  3. Have a discussion on your focus and time.
  4. Set a rhythm-meeting (e.g. every week) and keep updating the canvases.
  5. And remember to use time and effort to stay up to date at all times.

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