Change management must change

Ironically, the art and science of change management hasn’t changed so much in recent times.

Earlier this year I was given 20 minutes to present relevant technology trends to a London meeting of the Change Management Institute, and this has prompted an interesting dialogue with a client in recent weeks. You might say it boils down to the maxim:

People don’t so much dislike change as being changed.

My presentation – appended here – covers the exo-brain (aka smartphone), the exo-peripheral nervous system (aka the Internet of Things), social tech, the irreversible interweaving of the analogue and digital fabric of society, the responsive and visual workplace, building information management, beacons, personal data, quantified organization, influence flows, the work graph, emergence, Web 3.0 and the hi:project.

The implication of my presentation is this – if we want our colleagues, our teams, our organization to adapt to the needs of customers, each other and other stakeholders, then we must equip ourselves individually to navigate organizational life and the context in which it operates. To effect Personal Knowledge Mastery; the Organized Self. To develop intelligence individually, and therefore collectively.

Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. … And anything that purports to support the humanization of work must surely encompass the freedom to express one’s intelligence. [from my personal blog]

Yet, as my hi:project colleague Christina Bowen writes:

… several problems arising from the current non-living structures and interfaces of these systems currently constrain or prevent the ‘intelligent operation’ of individuals. For example:

  • The vulnerability of our personal data
  • The inability of people to see and understand the results of their actions on collective global scale
  • The lack of trust people have in corporations and other large organizations with disproportionate power in today’s world.

Constraints on intelligent action do not make individual people less intelligent, but we do become less trusting. Whether or not we understand network dynamics, emergence, or collective intelligence, we do know when we are not being treated as humans. We resent feeling like numbers or cogs.

If we need change we need to avoid such resentment. To avoid such resentment, change management must start by changing some fundamentals of organizational life.


Image: Sea Lion Chase by David Doubilet.

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