By Ira Blake, author of Project Managing Change, pub. Financial Times / Prentice Hall

Just think… how hard it is to change our own, individual behaviour no matter how keen we are to do so – all those broken diets, short-lived exercise programs and failed attempts to give up smoking. Getting hundreds or thousands of employees to change their behaviour in the way we want is a difficult business and what is effectively the business of change management.

In the past decade, change managers have established and gained recognition for their profession.  Ironically, having established the methodologies and approaches, change managers are now facing a future that will require an unprecedented, game-changing shift in the way we think about and deliver change in organisations.

For change managers, it is a case of ‘change manager change thyself’.  We need to start thinking beyond the boundaries of our operating sphere and step bravely out of our comfort zone and away from our familiar toolkits to stay engaged and relevant to the changes happening in our organisations.

For project managers, this means re-thinking what you think you know about change management and adapting how you work with and leverage change management in your projects.

There will be nothing more important to future success than building personal and organisational capability to deliver innovative and sustainable change.  To simplify and explore this challenge, I’ve extracted my Top 5 Change Management Conundrums:

[ribbon-light]1: Complexity[/ribbon-light]External environmental and economic pressure, coupled with organisational dynamics, competing priorities and the servitisation of industries means that periods of stability between organizational changes have evaporated.  The complexity and unrelenting pace of change means that change can no longer be managed by a few ‘experts’ and the key to sustainability is not try to manage change, but to work with the change by giving people the tools, capability and motivation to deliver change for themselves.

[ribbon-light]2: Adaptability[/ribbon-light]This means looking beyond individual change activities to the overall change capability of the organization.  In an environment of increasing ambiguity, greater regulation and risk mitigation, how will businesses create the space to transform?  How will change management need to adapt to deliver within these new dimensions of control and what impact will this have on an organisation’s ability to innovate or solve complex problems?

[ribbon-light]3: Agility[/ribbon-light]Businesses and IT functions are looking to increase productivity, efficiency, and responsiveness and many companies are looking to the ‘Agile’ project methodology to deliver large-scale deployments, and even transformation. Traditional change management approaches, methods and tools are designed to take stakeholders and staff through a continuous change journey to a specific outcome.  The challenge for change managers is how to prepare their organisations for change (a) without knowing the detail of the destination and (b) that will be in flexible chunks using a fast-paced and modular delivery.

[ribbon-light]4: Social Technology[/ribbon-light]Fundamental social and technological shifts, such as social networking (Facebook, Twitter and the like) is changing the way people live, work and collaborate. This will require change managers to rethink their basic assumptions of communication, structure, collaboration and culture upon which today’s organisations are designed.  New organisational models and approaches to engaging employees will be needed and change managers will need the skills to leverage new technologies.

[ribbon-light]5: Change Leadership[/ribbon-light]You may think this is stating the obvious, but after decades of being an issue change leadership is still a common point of failure.  How is it that as a global business community, we are still struggling with finding and growing good leaders? What does good change leadership actually look like? What are we not learning or doing?

Did you know that 80 – 90% of organisations undergo some form of major change every two years? The quote “Change is the only constant” is attributed to Heraclitus in 513 BC. Since those times, change has only become, and will continue to be more complex, rapid, and … confusing.

If you have felt you are not equipped with the skills and experience to deal with this much change effectively, you are not alone!  To find out more about the key issues and the challenges highlighted this article, come along to the Change Management Institute UK conference on October 31st& November 1st 2011.  The 2-day event in London will:

  • Define the ‘Benchmarks’ for Change Management
  • Showcase initiatives that have pushed the ‘Boundaries’
  • Deliver the latest research to push us ‘Beyond’ our current thinking