Change

       
        Yesterday on LinkedIn there was reference to a Scott Adams December 13, 2015 Dilbert comic about embracing change.  I noted that change for the better is a good thing, but change merely for the sake of change is not.  “Hasten slowly.
        The hasten slowly I remember first seeing on a sundial at a monastery roughly 30 years ago. It was new to me then, but as it turns out the notion dates back as far as Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire.  Along with the millennial support for Bernie Sanders’s socialism, it’s yet another reminder that that everything old can be new again.
        I found a short piece that I wrote 14 years ago titled, “Change Management Overview”, reproduced below.

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        The roots of change management as a field of specialty can be traced at least to Edgar Schein’s 1969 work on process consultation and possibly as far back as the late forties or early fifties depending upon one’s viewpoint.  Since the early days the field has been steadily developed by people who recognize the business and social needs to integrate human interaction and processes with business processes.
        Change management experienced a dramatic bent toward technology during the 1990s.  Even today, many people equate “change” with technological improvements.  While it is true that technology is involved in many change processes, the need for ongoing technological advancement is now accepted as one business necessity of many; it is no longer the driving force of change management.
        There are three basic classifications of change, each demanding a unique blend of competencies for effective management:
  • Transformation is a process that occurs when an organization must radically alter its way of doing business.  The source of the need might be primarily internal, such as a switch in company leadership and strategy as when Lee Iacocca took on the responsibility at Chrysler.  An external source might be illustrated by the current economy’s impact on the transportation industry.  The semi-trailer manufacturer Wabash National Corporation is one local example.  Transformation has a clear onset, may have a loosely defined end, and requires tremendous insight, a high tolerance for risk, and a well-reasoned yet highly adaptable strategy.
  • Transition occurs when there is a particular need identified that will improve performance, such as when a new technology, policy, or product is introduced.  A merger may be a transition rather than a transformation if company histories, cultures, operating procedures, and people are highly attuned.  A transition has a beginning and an end, and several transitions may be present during a transformation.  A transition requires clearly defined goals and a more rigid strategy.  Transitions typically require planning and management capability plus specific competencies in areas such as training or technology. 
  • Development is an ongoing process in organizations with a culture of continuous improvement.  Development might include succession planning, specialized training, and individual and team problem solving.
        Development tends to be more proactive than reactive, and it ideally permeates the entire organization.  Development is typically an important component during both transition and transformation and requires strategic planning capability, trusted leadership, and the ability to effectively organize and troubleshoot virtually any process.
        The most effective development leadership has the ability to anticipate internal and external changes, to be on the leading edge of trends, and to establishtrends when appropriate.  As developmental effectiveness increases, the instance and negative impacts of transition and transformation decrease.
        It is apparent that a particular change within an organization may fall into more than one classification.  It is also true that a single external event may call for a different level of change from one organization to another. 
       We should avoid change merely for the sake of change; case studies demonstrate that there is often costly confusion and unconscious and conscious resistance.  We must create and maintain a culture of continuous improvement and openness to change; those organizations with a learning culture suffer the least.

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