What presses your buttons?


August 5th, 2009

The term ‘change management’ presses my buttons. So instead of responding straight away with a rant, I thought I’d explore what the term means to me.

First ‘change’ – there’s two types of change: change that I initiate, like changing jobs or moving house, or taking a vacation. Then there’s change that is imposed on me by someone else: a new train timetable, a restructure at work, a new way of acting that someone else has decided is necessary (aka behaviour change). Okay, so there’s more than two types of change. There’s incremental change, and there’s catastrophic change.

Now ‘management’ – able to influence, direct, control. Some things really do need management: building a house, or any other complicated project; running a household – paying bills, putting the garbage out, organising maintenance, taking the dog to the vet – all manner of things need to be managed. Good thing too.

It’s when change and management are lumped together that I get a bit antsy. What does change management mean, I wonder? I guess it may be possible, and necessary, when moving office locations for example. Change management could be handy. But it often relates to cultural change – and I’m not sure it’s possible, or even desirable to manage cultural change.

I was once asked how to ‘ensure a controlled and managed change process’? I have no idea! I don’t think it IS possible. So instead of ‘change management’ I offer the following alternative: ‘change awareness’ – a process of creating an environment in which change (read cultural change) can be explored, played with, and adopted in an organic way that makes sense to people.

How to do that? Open space, enable conversations, build relationships and trust that people will do what’s necessary, based on their passions and the responsibility they’re willing to take. Yep – it’s about using open space as a means of being together in community and organisations to build connections and culture.

2 Comments so far

  1. John Rhoades on August 5, 2009 10:37 pm

    I really liked your concept of using “open space” as way to draw people into the change effort. My issue with “change management” is it typically is viewed as a closed process with a definite beginning and an end, not even considering the transformative implications of the process you articulate so well.

  2. Viv McWaters on August 7, 2009 4:12 pm

    So true, John. It’s that linear thinking that trips people up, I think – and the desire for order out of chaos!

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