Change management

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The Human Resources military-industrial complex

The instrument (the “telescreen”, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.

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Change management
/ʧeɪnʤ ˈmænɪʤmənt / (n.)

The business of tinkering with the workings of an organisation that generally would be better left to organise itself.

Thought leaders like to agonise on LinkedIn about good ways to communicate and consult on change. It goes without saying one must announce, consult, conduct Q&A, reassure, give reasoning and generally support ones chicklings throughout the change journey.

Now you either subscribe to a monarchic model where you are a golden source of inspiration surrounded by the silver and bronze officeholders of executive management, beyond whose gilded perimeters lies a sea of functionary dullitude — in which case what on earth are you asking them for — or you see your organisation as a network of autonomous experts, continually reacting to the market as they perceive it, and which your job is merely to coordinate — in which case what are you doing trying to change things at all?

It is a rare multinational CEO who is humble enough to adopt the latter approach, so presume the former. Is it better, then, to preannounce, like a magician — with all the attendant preannouncement, consultation, support and reassurance it entails — and if your plan involves widescale redundancies, for example, just how do you plan to reassure the rank and file about that? — or do you implement under the radar and only announce once it is done?

Pre-announcing gives the game away, makes you hostage to fortune, commits you to the first iteration of your plan, and allows the massive slient forces of entropy and resistance that inhabit the upper middle management reaches of your organisation to mobilise against whatever it is you want to do. And mobilise they will.

Just getting on with it unannounced allows you to consult as widely (or narrowly), and with whomsoever, as you need wish, fail, withdraw, iterate, change direction and refine without the glare of publicity and the horned angels of hubris.

And there is a wider point, too: change should be a gradual affair, allowing the organisation by degrees to to shapeshift into a more suitable direction. By keeping the plan quiet and and making the changes gradually and over an extended period it is more likely that they will work. A preannounced, sudden, 20-degree change in direction, even if, and and indeed especially if, foreshadowed by 6-months of consultation, almost certainly won’t.

See also