As we enter a new year, the need for change management is greater than ever. People – and their wellbeing and success at work and in change – are increasingly valued and addressed. Organizations face an unprecedented velocity of change and increasing demand to deliver results and outcomes.

Several emergent, innovative solution development approaches have caused some to question the need for change management. Yet these people-focused techniques are actually great potential allies rather than replacements for our discipline of change management that is aimed at preparing, equipping and supporting individual transitions. In 2019, we need better change management and more skilled practitioners than ever before.

What we mean by “change management”

To start the conversation about why we need more change management today, it is important to make sure we are talking about the same (or at least a similar) “it” – because there are a variety of perspectives on what change management even is. While there are many definitions of change management, I’ll offer up a few points to establish a foundation for the change management discussion.

Change management is:

  • Preparing, equipping and supporting our people through change so benefits are realized
  • How we mobilize our people around a change to deliver expected results and outcomes
  • Enabling our people to be successful on the change journeys that we put them on
  • How we respond to the facts that 1) change ultimately happens one person at a time, and 2) collective outcomes depend on individual transitions
  • Ensuring that solutions, however they are designed and delivered, are ultimately embraced, adopted and used by employees

The big takeaway is this: The outcome of change management is more successful change through adoption and usage. Change management is not just the tools, templates, processes, assessments, etc. – it is helping people be successful in their own changes so our organization succeeds in its changes. When I hear “change management is on the way out,” I always think to myself, “How can helping people be successful in their own changes so we can all be more successful be on its way out?”group-change

“More than ever” because people matter

For the last several years, I’ve been observing and starting to write about what I’m calling the “rehumanization” of the workplace. The buildup is worth a read (when it’s ready), but here is the punchline: Organizations are placing more value and priority on their people, as people.

happy-change-practitioners-smThis trend of rehumanization is helping me organize and make sense of a number of emergent movements in the workplace – for example, design thinking (empathy), wellness, growth mindset, emotional intelligence, employee experience (“if you put your employees first, they’ll take care of the customers”), inclusion, virtual work, mindfulness, and many more. All sorts of movements that to me are evidence of this rehumanization. There is a lot still to come here – maybe even some more blogs, perhaps a podcast, maybe even a book – but I digress. Back to change management in 2019…

At the meta level, we are placing more value on our fellow human beings inside the figurative walls of our organizations. Now, apply this perspective to change. When we value our people more in times of change, we intentionally prepare, equip and support them through change instead of dropping it on them and letting them fend for themselves.

Our communications are focused on what they want to know, not just what we want to talk about. Instead of fear of change, they feel empowered and excited for change. They are more successful at work and outside of work. Change management supports and aligns the rehumanization of the workplace when there is change.

“More than ever” because VxD=N

For several years, I’ve been using the equation VxD=N in presentations to executive audiences to provide context before ever talking about change management. VxD=N sets the stage and puts change management’s value (N) in the context of the reality of change and the environment around us that our leaders face every day (VxD).

Velocity of change

The V is velocity – the velocity of change happening in the world around us and inside of our organizations. We are facing bigger change than ever before. Faster change than ever before. More complex change than ever before. More cross-functional change than ever before. We are in the midst of a digital revolution. And all of this is happening against a backdrop of more information and more connectedness than ever before. Together, these conditions (plus even more) create a velocity of change that will either trample or propel organizations into the future.

Demand to deliver

The D is demand – the demand to deliver expected results and outcomes in times of change. Across the organization – boards, executives, leaders, sponsors, project leaders – there is a heightened expectation of and need to deliver benefit realization. When we invest time, energy, funding, people and mindshare into a change initiative, we need it to deliver improvement and value. And the demand to deliver is only going up – as the velocity of change increases and “out-changing” becomes the most critical core competency and competitive advantage.

Need for effective change management

VxD is the world we live in today – the velocity of change is skyrocketing as is the demand to deliver results and outcomes. With V and D increasing, we need effective change management – the N – because our people are the ones who bring these countless changes to life in how they do their jobs and show up each day. They are the ones that turn an idea into improvement. They turn a vision into value.

It is their processes, systems, tools, job roles, critical behaviors, mindsets, etc. that change. To capture the people-dependent portion of change value in the tidal wave of upcoming changes, change management must become the expectation, not the exception, and embedded in the fabric of the organization.

But do we need change management since we are… using an Agile approach? Involving people in solution design? Building intuitive solutions?

In 2019, organizations are adopting innovative, people-centered approaches to design, develop and deliver their change solutions (the “technical side” of the Prosci Unified Value Proposition). Here are a few common examples.

  • Agile provides an inclusive, iterative approach to solution development
  • Employee involvement in problem identification and solution design is being embraced and encouraged
  • Design thinking emphasizes empathy to develop more “iPhone-like” and intuitive solutions

With all of these exciting, new, people-centered approaches, it is easy to be lulled into one of these cognitive traps:

  • We don’t need change management because we are iterating directly with end users
  • We don’t need change management because we are involving employees in the process
  • We don’t need change management because we are building intuitive solutions

Each is a bit alluring, because each is partially true:

  • Is iterating with end users better than not? Sure, in many cases. But is it enough to ensure people can effectively adopt and proficiently use the changes to how they do their jobs? Certainly not.
  • Is involving people better than not involving them? Certainly. But is that enough to prepare, equip and support all impacted employees through their own transitions? I don’t think so.
  • Are intuitive solutions better than those that aren’t? Yup. But is an intuitive solution enough to win over someone’s heart and mind? Probably not.

Engaging people during change is great – but it is not enough to ensure our people will be successful on their own personal journeys. It just leaves too much up to chance and in some ways actually moves us further away from supporting our people if we are trapped by the allure.

Change management can effectively integrate with and support Agile, participatory, and design-thinking-led change efforts. It adds that little extra focus on adoption and usage. And when they are utilized together, the people side of change gets some advantages from people-centered solution approaches.

aligning-cm-with-agile-releases

Conclusion2-people-shaking-hands

With the velocity of change and the demand to deliver results increasing and intensifying, effective change management is needed now more than ever. In addition, the people-side focus of change management aligns well with the growing rehumanization trend, plus it supports other people-centered approaches to change such as Agile. At the end of the day, it isn’t about one or the other – it is about leveraging an innovative partnership toward greater outcomes.

Download: Pushing Boundaries and Revisiting Foundations 

Written by
Tim Creasey
Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.