Say the phrase “change management” at any company and many will say they know what this means. Companies typically define change management as the process of moving or transitioning individuals, teams, and entire organizations from the current state to the desired future state. Change management activities include communication plans, training, process mapping, etc.
Projects typically change processes and systems, for example, moving from an in-house managed contingent worker program to an outsourced model under a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Thus mapping out the steps in the current version to how the newer “more-efficient” state will be is an important part of a project.
However, we focus so well on this technical piece of change that we often forget the human piece. Project Managers, as well as management within organizations often forget that people and their values must change along with the process.
According to Ronald Heifetz, adaptive challenges require a change in a person, team, or organization’s values, specifically when there is a conflict in values. It requires an evolution in values for members or factions whose values differ from one another. Thus it would be prudent for companies to understand the values tied to the current state, and the values of the future state, and find a way to work through this evolution. Otherwise, once you’re in the future state with the whiz-bang processes and technologies, you’ll have people clinging to their old values; either fighting the new state or struggling to learn and hurting productivity.
Going back to the MSP project example… there were several admins and project coordinators around the company manually managing temporary workers from various suppliers. In addition, suppliers were knocking on hiring managers’ doors daily to get new business. Under the new program, a hiring manager could go into a tool and request a temporary worker, with the process being managed by a neutral third party, the MSP. For many, the values espoused in the old model, was the live interaction between hiring managers, their admins, and the suppliers. Being able to call up a supplier when they had a need was valuable to the hiring manager; they felt they could get better service and higher quality candidates this way. For those in support of the new model, they valued greater visibility through the system of how many contingent workers were on site, tracking how much money was being spent, and fair competition amongst suppliers who all received requests (instead of the few that the hiring managers used to call).
Management will typically approach this conflict in values by showing why the old state is wrong and the new state is right.
Approaching this conflict as adaptive work, will identify the mutual values, reframing both sets of values to find commonalities, while addressing the values people may “think” they’re losing, but really aren’t lost. This takes a lot more time, then a “you’re wrong and I’m right” conversation.
More to come on how we can incorporate Leadership theories into Change Management.