Change Practitioners : bah humbug! or be the change?

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!

6 Replies to “Change Practitioners : bah humbug! or be the change?”

  1. Why do you describe it as being scrooge to challenge assumptions? It’s part of our culture to re-evaluate and envision a modified and improved reality in the new year. This seems consistent to me, and a positive thing.
    After about 15 years as a change practitioner, I’ve found my challenges are more about the broader environment for change than the approach. consistent, engaged and visible leadership commitment still needs to be present. Organizations are inherently political, and most people want to associate with the “winners,” those who are more likely to achieve the goals that will be recognized and rewarded. If the change initiative isn’t strategic, funded and appropriately resourced, it is not likely to succeed.
    A comment on WIFM . . . I’ve always thought the value was as a tool to consider effective messaging – targeting information that will be relevant to a particular group. Use it in the development of strategic communications plans. With a former background in public affairs and marketing, this is the approach I’ve taken with WIFM and the way I believe it remains relevant.

    1. Thanks Laurie. Yes you are right about Scrooge but he did change his ways in the end and this is what I was asking Change Practitioners to do. It was also just a play on the Xmas theme. I take your point on WIIFM but I think the language we use as Change Practitioners determines the outcome. As Change Practitioners I think there are lots more generative questions we could ask such as ‘how would the change enhance meaning in our work?’ or ‘what are the positive aspects of the change we can use to help deal with the challenges?’. I think these types of questions might take us to a different outcome.

    1. Thanks Eduardo. I wonder if there are any common themes running through these articles? I will read through them and see if there is another blog in here;)

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