Change Management 2020
10 minutes, 12 predictions, a cup of coffee and 1,500 words
This time of year is always an excellent opportunity for looking back and ahead and while I enjoy a victory dance as much as anyone, looking ahead has always been my preferred option.
Over the past two week I drank lots of Coke Zero and Pepsi Max while having catch up meetings across Melbourne with starters, seasoned veterans and long-time experts in the field of change. For some reason we always ended up talking about the future of change management and I found that I had lots of opinions on the state of Change in 2020. I promise to report back in three years to see how wrong I was, but for now here’s a short list of predictions and more detail below if you’d like to know more.12 Predictions for Change 2020
No more cookie cutter models
Better words, deeper meaning
End of the change expert and the rise of working out loud
Shorter projects, faster delivery
Complete solutions and empowered decision making
In-house change management
Educated and informed customers
Technology and the change data analyst as your new besties
Early involvement for impacted teams in strategic design
Beyond people centric design
Better recruitment and procurement
1. No more cookie cutter models
There’s a noticeable trend of model-agnosticism amongst change professionals and their clients and as change management knowledge becomes general knowledge, this will only intensify. The safety and security that accreditation, famous models and established theories used to provide are no longer needed or desired; fit-for-purpose customisation, co-design, conciseness and fast delivery will reign supreme in the years to come.
2. Better words, deeper meaning
As communication of success (and failure) stories keeps increasing, fuelled by a sector-wide desire to learn from good practices, common change words will be wider spread and take on a shared meaning as the profession matures further. Also, we’ll no longer have to use vague descriptors like resistance, efficiency measures, implementation challenges or reinforcement just for the sake of understanding, which will make for quality conversations that get to the heart of the matter faster and leave less room for dodging the uncomfortable truths surrounding them.
3. End of the change expert and the rise of working out loud
I saw this great quote the other day: “You might have 15 years of experience and 3 business school degrees, but I have Wikipedia.” Spot on and funny at the same time. More and more business schools and universities across the world and right here in Australia (Swinburn, Charles Sturt, UNSW, University of Victoria) are offering change management modules, graduate or even complete master degrees and those people are finding their way to your workplace as we speak. Granted, reading a book about swimming does not make you Michael Phelps, but it might spark your talent and a lifelong career. The more adventurous colleagues have already embraced the concept of working out loud they’ve understood early on that the future is not about what you know, it’s how you apply it that makes you special or even unique.
4. Shorter projects, faster delivery
Everyone is just so over those lengthy, sluggish and incomprehensible transformation projects that cutting them up into smaller parts is the no-brainer thing to do. We couldn’t do it when there were fewer experts around, but the experts are now comfortably delegating the portfolio of projects from the background to empowered and responsible individuals who know what they are doing or where to get help (from us). The lucky few who took this approach seem to never tire of change, because by the time they are over it, it’s over and done.
5. Complete solutions and empowered decision making
The time of the change manager having to do everything herself (come on, we’ve all been there) and ask permission for most things will come to an end. Organisations will knowingly entrust the complete change project to the change manager, not by shedding responsibility, but by empowering the professional they hired to get the end result they desire. In exchange for that trust and empowerment, we’ll offer an integrated approach that sees us collaborating across our networks to get a storyteller, change visualiser, analyst, engagement expert and/or strategist in for a few hours or days and we’ll manage it all without having to ask for permission, presenting one integrated solution under our supervision.
6. In-house change management
There’s never been a doubt in our change professional minds that WE are not the owners of the change and organisations will increasingly catch on to this in years to come, converting our role from being the outside expert on change to training the inside experts in change. Just think about all the free time you’ll have to work on new and truly challenging things!
7. Educated and informed customers
Either through simple exposure, their own smarts and/or education, our customers and executives will become smarter in the ways of change and finally we’ll be able to work on stuff that really matters earlier in the engagement and be less of an endangered species in business land. I look forward to all the smart conversations about things that really matter.
8. Technology and the change data analyst as your new besties
Big data is coming for all of us and big businesses have wrestled with it long enough for smaller businesses to take advantage of their lessons learned. There will be an increasing amount of technology available to get you the data you want to support the change, but your new best friend the change analyst will help you make sense of it. These are not by default project gophers or junior roles. Actually, they might make more money than you would and only be there for a few hours or days at most, but they will give you insights and value for money beyond compare because they see more and know more than you and can make the technology do what it needs to do first time right.
9. Hybrid solutions
Like Lean Six Sigma, PDCA Kaizen and Change Communications, more hybrids will evolve as the profession matures. There is a lot of attention for Agile Organisations and Lean Change because of the promise of increase speed of delivery and reduced complexity and we’ll continue to see more hybrid solutions to our complex problems, taking the best parts and combining them into a fit-for-purpose approach that suits the context. This is truly exciting stuff as two great originals will create even better offspring.
10. Early involvement for impacted teams in strategic design
We’ve been asking for it for a long time and in the next three years we’ll get it: early involvement for teams in strategic change design. The “control and submit” mindset will dwindle away to be replaced by co-designed change that sees team owning their own problems and solutions. First, we had to get our place at the table to show forward thinking CEO’s and directors the benefits of change centric strategy design, now we’re now asking them to reach across levels and let us work with the teams impacted by the change instead of telling them how it will be from higher up. The benefits will be the same, but on a much grander scale and engagement scores will soar as the experience gets shared.
11. Beyond people centric design
All the good stuff about putting the customer first, client or employee centric design and voice of the customer was a real shift in mindset…in the 1990s and early 2000s! It’s been outdated for a little while and the concept of individualised experience seems to take its place. Makes sense when you stop and think about it: not everyone likes broccoli and we know one change does not fit all, so why would there be one workplace solution that works for everyone? All good intentions and business benefits aside, it’s still “process and system over people” thinking. The successful change organisations of 2020 will have replaced that sort of thinking with flexible and self-elected solutions that lead to the same outcome, without involving broccoli.
12. Better recruitment and procurement
The final change I hope to see in the next few years is much better recruitment and procurement of change capacity. I am guessing that all changies at some point have been in that situation where agency X call you with no detail or specifics about the role, wants a candidate to start right away, have CEO-like skills and work for peanuts. Now I happen to like peanuts, but have learned the hard way to ask questions and the sobering truth is that the organisations tasking the agencies to hire change managers are so clueless it’s not funny. An average engagement for a skilled change professional easily comes at a cost for $100k+ for six months or more (often more). You’d expect organisations to spend more time on considering what they want to get out of spending that kind of money, but most of the time it’s still up to us to make sure we deliver value for money. I look forward to the day when the profile, deliverables and expectations are clear, because that’s when we know they truly get and support what we’re there to do.
I hope you enjoyed looking into the change 2020 crystal ball with me, only time will tell if I was too optimistic. Now, the great thing about opinions is that everyone has at least one, so feel free to disagree with any or all of the above or even add your predictive views in the comment section.