Back in 2009, we started researching change management trends, curious to know what was in the future for change management. Seven years later, the newest research is in.
What Is a Trend?
The research we do on change management is people-centric and is therefore considered part of the social sciences.
In complete contrast, a chemist is working with hard sciences - he or she will be studying causal relationships. To illustrate the differences between the sciences, when a chemist mixes vinegar and baking soda together, they can expect a volatile reaction. There is a predictable, causal relationship between those two chemicals (and for this reason my mother has banned science fair volcanoes from her kitchen!)
However, in our people-centric, social science research, we find that people are simply too unpredictable. The strong, causal relationships that are evident in hard sciences do not exist in social sciences. So instead, we report on trends.
Trends are a way of using data to predict how something is going to develop. In this case we are reporting on trends within the change management discipline. Prosci has been studying change management trends for some time in order to understand how the discipline has developed, and also to see how the trends will evolve.
THE LATEST trends
To study the trends in this discipline, we first ask our research participants to identify the trends in change management that have developed over the last two years. From the 2016 report, the top three most recent trends were:
More awareness of the need for change management
More resources dedicated to change management activities
Greater integration with project management
These trends tell us that the appreciation of change management has grown and that more organizations recognize its value as a strategic initiative. It is becoming easier for change managers to secure the resources they need to do their work effectively, including more access to project management teams.
Next, we ask participants to identify the top trends they expect to see in the discipline over the next five years. The top three predicted discipline trends in 2016 were:
Further integration with project management
Continued maturation of the discipline
Focus on building internal capabilities and core competencies
From these trends, we can see that the discipline of change management is still maturing, and that more is needed it terms of awareness, integration, training and resources if change management is to be truly effective. Change management has grown from a collection of scholars studying change into the broad and impactful discipline that it is today. Over the next few years, we can expect more emphasis to be placed on ingraining and growing organizational core competencies via individual capabilities.
Leveraging the trends
Now that we know the new and continued developments that are expected, what do we do with this information? A good starting place is to ask yourself these two questions:
What developments have I seen in my own change management practice?
Not every change management practice needs to develop in the same way, but if the developments in the overall discipline are vastly different or even contradictory to the developments you have seen in your practice, it is import to explore why. By doing this you may identify barrier points or trouble spots that need to be addressed in order for your practice to advance.
What development do I want to see in my program?
If you have ever seen a gardener at work, you will understand the importance of directing and controlling growth in order to create something meaningful. Your organization's change management program needs the same kind of direction in order to develop.
Seeing the trends in the discipline five years out may give you an opportunity to understand the customization that needs to take place for your own change management program to grow.
Are there opportunities for further integration with your project management functions? Which internal competencies that support change management are strong, and which ones need further development?
We may not be able to predict exactly what will happen in the change management discipline, like we can with our science fair volcanoes. But understanding recent and future predicted developments does allow us to measure our own practice against the discipline, and set our intention for how we will develop going forward.
I, for one, am excited to see what next years’ trends reveal - will we go where we think we will?
Robert uses his extensive educational background in social science research and writing to continually expand and deepen the body of knowledge dedicated to change management. In his role as Prosci Research Product Family Manager, Robert works to plan, run and produce meaningful advances in the field of change management.