© 2016 Gardeners not Mechanics

Is Change Management wrong-headed?

November 30, 2015




Try this exercise. 


Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, dividing it into two columns. At the top of the left-hand column write the word "Management" and in the right-hand column write the word "Leadership".







Now, under each heading write down the words you associate with each. If you are on the move, just close your eyes and draw it in your head.


In all probability, you will have been asked to do something similar before, perhaps in some management training or education class? And the list will probably look something like the one below.




This is pretty standard stuff. And there's usually a debate about whether management or leadership is most important? Or whether there is any point in having one without the other?  


But there is also, usually, broad agreement that it is leadership that propels an organisation forward and it is leadership which is often lacking in challenging situations within organisations.


To clarify, by leadership, I do not mean a single enlightened despot as hero. The reason for the picture of the All Blacks, New Zealand rugby team, at the top of the page is because they exemplify what it is to have a team leaders...and in case you didn't hear, the All Blacks are the only team to win the world cup twice in a row and they are the most successful international sports team in history.


With exception of the captain, the All Blacks team of leaders don't have formal titles. The leaders are simply the individuals that others look to for guidance and advice in certain situation, because they have proved, time and time again, to be a person whose judgement can be trusted.


So when I say leadership, I am referring to leadership at all levels of an organisation, including informal leadership, as much as formal leadership from authority figures.


So what does this have to do with Change Management?


Well, let's add the word "change" to each of the columns from the exercise above. 



The words we choose, trigger a large network of subconscious associations. These, in turn, frame our view and set a boundary around our possible actions, without us really noticing.


So the problem with talking in terms of of change management is that it may lead us into a machine mindset, of predictable outcomes, where the key task is to plan and control. This has not worked well in the past and will do so even less so in the future.


I am not suggesting that experienced change practitioners who talk about change management are excluding the list in the right-hand column. But the language that we use shapes the actions of others, as it is handed on.


So, if you believe that organisational change needs gardeners not mechanics then choose your language carefuly and put change leadership on the map.











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