Is it time for Change Management to change?
Our poll on motivation theory showed that the older the theory, the more familiar Change Practitioners were with it.
As advocates of change we are challenged with creating lucid change within companies. Are we best placed to do this when we are potentially using theories that are older than the companies we are advising?
Old theories for new challenges?
Old and misinterpreted theories may skew ways of thinking and bias assumptions. Here are some examples:
- WIFIM (‘What’s in it for me?’) – this acronym, often used in change management education, relates to expectancy theory published by Victor Vroom in 1964. According to Vroom, employees are always weighing up different probabilities to maximise personal benefit. But are these cognitive choices the limit of how we make decisions? More recent thinking suggests that choices are socially constructed , based on human relations rather than individual rationality.
- Employees inherently resist change – this term was first coined 70 years ago (Coch & French, 1948) but has since been taken out of context. Recent research supports Coch & French original sentiment that individuals resist the nature of the change rather than having an innate resistance to change.
- Kuber-Ross’ Change Curve – theories of change management have been built around research conducted amongst dying patients. ‘On Death and Dying’ was written in 1969 by Elizabeth Kuber-Ross. The theory outlined how to help people deal with deep loss. Later Kuber-Ross regretted the way the theory has been used saying ‘there is no typical response to loss as there is no typical loss’. You can’t ‘tuck messy emotions into neat packages’. Should we be comparing change in organisations to an individual’s emotions of losing someone dear? Even if we should, what is the basis for extrapolating this into a neat curve?
Should we reconsider our change principles?
Does this become a Self Fulfilling Prophecy? The less we challenge our axioms of Change Management the harder change becomes. The harder change becomes the more we believe that 70% of change initiatives fail (another deficit based and potentially incorrect belief about our profession).
I think our challenge as Change Practitioners is how we change our beliefs, assumptions and misappropriated theories. As agents of change shouldn’t we believe that people are up for change, assume that people are selfless and use up-to-date evidence based theories to change organisations?
I am going to be Scrooge this Christmas and reconsider my principles of change for the New Year – will you join me?
Have a great Christmas!