Reality Check for Change “Managers”

Throw out all your change management books and methodologies and theories.  Burn every PowerPoint presentation filled with diagrams and flow charts and tools and templates.  Delete your change project plans.  Forget agonizing over deliverables that your change work team must produce.  Fire every project manager or internal auditor or procurement specialist who minimizes your change effort to a mind-numbing checklist of activities to be completed for a contract to be in compliance.

Change can’t be managed.  It can only be led.

In the real world, neither logic, nor project management certification, nor executive authority, nor flashy communication will convince employees to embrace a new program with enthusiasm if it doesn’t feel right to them.  And if it doesn’t feel right to them, it isn’t.  You’ve lost them before you’ve started.

Let’s face it.  Most organization initiatives are conceived and implemented by a small group trying to impose their preferences on all or a part of the larger organization.  One department or manager makes a decision that will benefit themselves and then hopes to sell the idea to everyone else who was happy with the status quo.

They ask others to commit themselves to a new direction—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and even financially—without giving them a choice, without involving them and after the decision has already been made.

Fait accompli.

The problem isn’t the idea.  The problem isn’t even in the planning.  The problem is that no matter how “right” or well-planned an idea may be, it must be implemented well to be successful.

Implementation isn’t about a detailed project plan.  Implementation is about knowing how to connect with people and gain their support.  It’s about connecting emotionally and getting an emotional commitment.

And that’s why change can’t be managed.  Because connecting and engaging and inspiring and listening and involving are the adaptive activities of leadership.  So, instead of getting blinded by the details of the project plan, get focused on providing the leadership required for change success.

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