40 Years Looking Forward on Change Management
A few weeks ago I sat down to reflect on the past 40 years and how change management has changed over that time. So it is very appropriate to look forward as well. What will change in the next 40 years?
That is a long time horizon to predict, 40 years, but there is absolutely one thing that I am certain will change: the amount of change organizations will face, the frequency, the speed, the competitive advantage of being able to change. That is a certainty. And so, therefore, is the need for organizations to build the competency to be able to change: to know what changes to make and to be able to achieve those changes in ways that increase the success of the changes.
If that is what is going to happen to organizations, what happens to change management during that time?
First and foremost, the methodology of managing change well must become more refined. It must strive to become increasingly more practical, more flexible, and more scalable.
Second, the skills of the people involved in change must be more highly developed. Earlier in their training, leaders must be taught how to be effective sponsors. That training must be integrated into all the skill development they are exposed to in their formal and informal learning. Academic learning, in MBA type degrees for example, must make sponsorship of change a key part of every discipline taught to potential leaders. Marketing, finance, supply chain management, etc — any course taught to them must include how they successfully make the changes required for their organizations to be optimal in each of these areas of the business.
Anyone who is going to be charged with the responsibility to help make the changes must know how to do it. So the change agents need that methodology of effective change management built into their knowledge of project management and program management as well.
And the truly effective organizations will build what we are currently calling resilience into their work force. Teach them how to cope with change, how to be a partner in the change process, not its victim.
Looking to the future we also have to put in place consideration of the technologies that will more effectively enable the application of the enhanced methodology. While we cannot predict what that technology will look like in the future what we can and must do is keep a perspective on it. We in change management must be open and willing to adapt to the improved capability that technology will bring us. What we cannot do is let the technology’s improvements be the driver of our process. The tools we use, the technology that enables those tools, is not the foundation of effective change management. It will be, as it improves, an incredible resource to the way we make change happen, the methodology we use. It is not the driver. It is a tool that contributes to the success of the driver: a core competency with an optimal methodology.
What an exciting ride we who are change management professionals will have in the next 40 years. And what a great contribution we make to the organizations we support.