The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) held its annual conference in Orlando April 28 through May 1, and I had the opportunity to attend it for the first time in six years.
If you were to use conference attendance as a bellwether for the state of an industry segment or function, I’m happy to report that the profession of change management is thriving based on what I witnessed at this year’s event. Moreover, the robust programming, diversity of practitioner industries and roles, as well as the rigor and science being applied to our craft all point to a dynamic and healthy future for the practice.
As someone who has been part of the change community for more than 15 years, I remember when our legerdemain was relegated to providing branded tchotchkes for new project kickoffs or viewed as a ‘touchy-feely’ nice-to-have, but not critical role. As I’ve watched our profession mature, gain acceptance, and drive business results, we’ve become a data-driven, competitive advantage to organizations, and this fact was on display at this year’s ACMP conference.
The main attraction of this annual event is to hang out with other change practitioners, network, and learn from one another. I saw hearty handshakes and hugs abound for old friends and colleagues as they bumped into each other for the first time.
To help facilitate the connected experience for the more than 1,200 registered participants, ACMP wisely leveraged a conference app to help create excitement and community. Part LinkedIn, part Foursquare (am I dating myself with this reference?), and part Facebook, the conference app allowed users to post updates and check-ins, track people they met, and plan their conference agenda by viewing the programming schedule. Vendors could use it to zap attendee badges for lead tracking and follow-ups, and participants could message each other for networking purposes.
Additionally, conference planners created face-to-face networking events by hosting breakfast meet-ups, lunches with table assignments based on geography, and small group dine-around dinner events. As a result, through larger keynote presentations or larger program events like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ dinner, I saw smaller clusters of new friends commiserating, laughing and playing together.
The use of technology and in-person meet-ups created an intimate environment for such a large and well-attended event. I was pleasantly surprised that in the space of three days, it felt like we were all long-tenured colleagues.
Agile and big data were the two big content drivers this year as represented by the number of programs dedicated to the subjects or by the frequency of questions regarding them during open discussions.
As I’ve noticed over the last year more job postings for change managers that require business intelligence and data visualization, there were many vendors at the conference selling tailored tools or consulting services targeting this trend. It was heartening to see such data-driven tools continue to help build the credibility and business-result orientation of our profession.
Practitioners are finding themselves dealing with either ‘big A’ Agile or ‘little a’ agile in their organizations, so there were a variety of presentations that covered a large cross section of industries and skill levels. I heard a lot of people looking for quick and easy change interventions that would fit into the time constraints of a stand-up meeting and leveraged design-thinking tools.
Our Chief Innovation Officer, Tim Creasey, created some buzz by hosting an Agile Masterclass Workshop. Due to room space constraints, many people wanted to attend but could not get in. As a result, I used the conference app to shoot the following webinar and research information to people who missed the event:
While working our booth, the most frequent topic I fielded was how to build out an enterprise change management capability. This is another healthy sign of our profession in that there is a general acceptance and desire to have some level of change practitioner within a business team. Over time, those resources drive results and create a demand for more change management, thereby creating the strategic need to build a capability plan.
Luckily, we have many webinars to help jump-start a practitioner’s thinking. Here’s the list I provided booth visitors:
All in all, it was an engaging, inspiring event with exciting opportunities to connect with others who share my passion for change management. Whether professionals attended to advance their change management careers or help build change management capability in their organizations, it was great being surrounded by these change leaders who are instrumental in advancing the discipline and practice of change management.
Dan Olson is a seasoned change management architect and deployment leader with diverse experience in change management strategy and implementation, leadership coaching, team effectiveness, facilitation, and operations management. He has led major change initiatives, built change management centers of excellence within organizations, and coached others in doing the same.
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