Change cannot be managed. You can design the change and guide people through the change to increase the probability of success, but it cannot be managed. It's not something clear and simple, where pushing a certain button will give the desired result.
Emphasis on Change Plans over Change Design
In many strategic programs, a lot of emphasis is put on planning the change. Months of time spent in meetings to agree on and document the processes and activities that need to be organized to get change. Often after this exercise, the plans remain in the dark corners of company servers, never to be looked at again. In other cases, the next step is filling checklists. Change plan presented to the board, check. Briefing to external communication agency, check. People informed about the change, check. Employees trained, check. It’s a linear process, very standardized and the change is done once the checklists are completed.
Endless Checklists to ‘feel’ progress
Of course it doesn’t work that way. The checklists can help to make sure you get the basics right. People need to be informed and need to be trained. But not always in the same way or to the same extent.
Change needs to be designed and then facilitated
Every change program is different. Every group of stakeholders or the ones impacted by the change is different. What’s expected to change can be different for a team working in the headquarter versus individuals working in the field. So it needs to be designed. It needs to start from a clear insight in the people involved and adapting your approach and interventions to their needs.
The importance of Change Design
That’s why Design Thinking is crucial in change. Not to manage it, but to design it and co-create it together with your stakeholders.