Back of a napkin change management - two valuable pieces in the modern day puzzle

I got talking to a friend of mine about two elements that aren't being properly built into modern day change management.  I explained it to him on the back of a napkin at one of our weekly dinners which brings together city ex-pats, running businesses and living the dream, in our  rural wine region about an hour from the capital.

We covered off the generalities that have been celebrated around change management in the 80's an onward, but I mentioned to him many practitioners were having so much trouble with change management because they hadn't captured the nuances of modern life. We ticked all the boxes though; communication and deep engagement, a solid strategy aligned to clear objectives, a view of culture without the rose-coloured glasses, the unique situation, management coming to terms with its own truth, letting go of control, and yes, the list goes on.

Those implementing change management, and I included, widely recognise that globalisation and the impact of technology, particularly through social media, has changed how we do it, but despite that, we constantly overlook two key things which can make or break a modern day transition.

  1. People have a new relationship with information

  2. Information is free, not owned

Thanks to social media, people have become very good at sourcing and sorting information while, also supporting this notion, information has also become more readily available. On my napkin, I represented people, the information herd, as free-floating individuals moving amongst one another.  These peeps are all curating information in ways that suit their needs and values, whether it be from global media sources or at work.


What's important to note here is that the eco-system is random allowing it to move and respond where there is a need.  They, as a collective, make the group agile. The very nature of their inter-relationship means  thought, information, culture or drive can suddenly change direction depending on how it's prodded.

Now compare this to how many businesses have been sharing information for aeons and look at how, traditionally, communication flow has operated within the structure.

dots down.jpg

Let's look at how information is often disseminated with organisations. Old school, hey?  The old credo of controlling information, whether it be in the media or your organisation, is last year's notion.  Top down has long gone.  Now it's this

dots across.jpg

It's not an 'all or nothing proposition anymore'. Information flow needs to be fluid across all levels. But if you can think of information availability as an ongoing discussion you can start to see how it can be managed better. You can even begin to understand how to resource and manage it, but that's maybe best left for another post.

If you consider the behaviour of individuals, who make up your teams, those free-flowing, self curating beings,  the expectation of being kept in the loop is a constant. It's how they run their lives now, thanks to social media, a 24-hour news cycle, phones, video chat platforms and the internet.

Plus, they're physically mobile. They travel. Their networks are, or have the potential to be, more diverse, bigger, aligned to a variety of niches and (the best bit) well-informed. Why wouldn't they expect all this more during their working hours and with the people they spend time with there?

What I am suggesting then?

Change management is a constant now. Maybe we need to just drop the word 'change'.  Rather than change management being this big thing that gets plonked on an organisation, and throws it into this carefully sequenced rollout of transition stages and support systems, organisations should just accept that change is WITH US ALL THE TIME.

Information is driving this and information moves fast these days. Behind it are the people who are now better at managing it all. Dealing with this means that our internal communications need to change permanently.  We also need to build in very real, creative and interesting opportunities to bring people together.  Think innovation afternoons, bringing different levels of management together 'on the ground' with front line staff and, heaven forbid, play.

Again, maybe I can cover this off in another post sometime. Communication's culture, anchored in trust and transparency, agile and able to be accessed when needed, is not solved just by the introduction of an enterprise social network platform.  It requires the courage to move in a new direction where we share, discuss and innovate as our team's change.

This is not solved overnight but we need new thinking that can move with the inter-generational change within our workforce. It's time we moved from the back of a napkin to see the bigger picture. But let's start with some discussion here.

Libby Fordham