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  • Gilbert Kruidenier

Where is the change community-Part 1

Visualisation of change in numbers displaying data on change manager profile numbers

In my quest to understand what is happening to the Change Management profession I love, I turned to data and learned a lot, but was left with more questions than answers.

When I say I turned to data, I really mean that I played around with LinkedIn and Google and searched for different combinations of words. If you were expecting a scientific and peer-reviewed article, I appreciate the vote of confidence, but that’s really outside my skill set and well beyond my patience threshold. I am looking for insights, not answers necessarily.

I found that there’s about 12 million people in the world (of LinkedIn, I know, that’s not the whole world) who have the word ‘Change’ somewhere in their profile. Zoom in on Australia and you’re down to 600,000. Zoom in further on Melbourne and it’s still a respectable 175,000.

Repeating that exercise, but now adding ‘manager’ (‘change manager’) I learned that there’s about 195,000 change managers in the world of LinkedIn, 18,000 something in Australia and the magical number of 5,678 in Melbourne (as of 14-2-2018) alone.

That made me truly sad.

Before I explain why, let’s not stop halfway and assume some more. LinkedIn has about 500 million users in 200 countries. It’s actually 546 million, but I deducted the arbitrary number of 46 million for dead and fake profiles, just to keep it science-y. Let’ say those are half of all professionals who could be on LinkedIn but choose not to, for whatever good or weird reasons people have to (not) do things on the Internet nowadays.

That means that there’s between 5,000-10,000 change managers in Melbourne alone and how many do I meet at most events I go to or help organise? About 30 to 50 and most of them I know by face, name and/or their excellent reputations. I am predicting that In April at Convergence 2018 I’ll know at least half of the 200-ish attendees. I am also predicting I will have a great time and learn a lot, I mean, have you seen the line up?

Here’s why that number makes me sad.

More than 5,000 changies in Melbourne alone and we can’t seem to inspire our clients, co-workers and employers to write a decent role profile, get us in early, to sponsor/lead the change and create a realistic chance of success in their organisations. We outbid each other for impossible $$$/day contracts in the hope of making it work in the long run. And when it turns sour, we rely on a few greats (not embarrassing them by naming them here, but we all know who they are) to show us the way once more and kick our butts into gear.

I find myself speaking of ‘the community’ and ‘the profession’ but is that what we are? Some might argue that Change is a young profession and still finding its way. Not to be too blunt but that sounds like a bit of a cop out. The exact same thing can be said about project management, risk management, quality management and even marketing, old but new, forever renewing. Nice try. It’s about 70 years ago that Lewin gave us Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze and I’d like to believe that we’ve matured somewhat since then, had a few kids, paid off the mortgage and reached the age of wisdom where we feel the drive to teach others what we’ve learned. If only that were true.

What I see is the same small group of irreverent thinkers, corporate rebels and visionaries freely sharing their ideas and practices (okay, sometimes not freely, but still sharing) and everybody is quick to copy and appropriate but slow to master and improve.

Instead we argue over the relevance of certification and the meaning of Agile and agile as if it truly matters, worship a new model every few years and spread so much fear for Change in order to create a market for our services that we can hardly blame our clients for misunderstanding our true capabilities, let alone our intentions.

We’re a collective of bright individuals on most days, but not a community (yet) and until we unite behind shared practices, behaviours and agreed principles, we’ll be played by the business. And we’ll be too busy outsmarting and outcompeting each other to even consider changing the rules of this beautiful ‘game’ called Change Management.

That’s why that big number makes me sad.

We truly have the numbers, capabilities and collective smarts to do what no other profession can do, which is to find a way forward in a world that keeps speeding up and gets more complex and more wonderful every day. To provide purpose, direction and calm in a world that needs it now more than ever before.

If not us, then who? If not now then when? What’s do you think needs doing for that to happen?

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