30 Change Roles of the Near Future
It seems the latest fad is to declare Change Management dead and some even throw Prosci in for good measure, which seems a bit harsh. Google ‘Change management is dead’ and you get 379 million hits. If you add ‘not’, you get 425 million hits, but more interestingly, you’ll see that this ‘debate’ has been going on since, oh I don’t know…2014!! Okay, so change is like Schrödinger’s Cat, alive and dead at the same time, I am good with that. I just keep wondering, will anyone care in 5 years from now?
Holger Nauheier recently shared his 3 potential scenarios for Change, which come down to: status quo (bad), welcome to the digital era (better) and a move to trust-based empowered teams (yay). Others are revisiting the traits and requirements for Changies from a Recruitment- or HR-perspective, which are good reminders of the WHO, but still leave me wondering about WHAT we’ll be doing. How do we create a more rewarding job for ourselves?
Let’s do what we often do when things need to change; compare current state with future state for our own profession.
Our Current State
Without making this into a history lesson or one of my trademark ‘be better or perish!’ sermons, let’s have a quick look at what the current ‘normal’ is. Change is done according to templates and methods, performed by people who got hired to fill out readiness assessments, run engagement sessions, do some surveys and on a good day, if there’s time we get to do some communications. I wish I was kidding or grumpy and cynical. Just go online and scroll through a few pages on Seek and Indeed…! Of course, there are exceptions, I know some of them and they have difficulty getting the really good jobs and often don’t even work in mainstream Change any more. No need to feel sorry for them just yet, they see something we don’t and are already living in the future state, (im)patiently waiting for all of us to catch up.
By now, organisations should really only be hiring consultants when they have no spare capacity or no available expertise. Then again, 20 years of virtually unchanged practices (with a few bandwagon moments) seems like a long time to NOT solve either of those issues by building internal capabilities. The current deal between company and advisor is a rather unhelpful but hard-to-kill co-dependency (dare I say parasitic symbiosis); company X pays consultant Y very well to deliver busy work they don’t really comprehend or aren’t courageous enough to own themselves and the consultant buys into this, spreads a little fear to validate their continued involvement and all is well for Project Phoenix in the next 12 months. No one mentions the lack of ownership and involvement, we just make incremental progress, sprinkle some magical digital transformation dust around, stick on innovation labels and avoid the making of waves. Rinse, repeat, nothing to see here, someone sink that burning platform please!
The Near Future State
If you are a patient person (unlike me), stick around in Change because if you thought it was good now, wait till you see what happens in the next 5 years. Right now, I see a few inspiring shining lights in a mist of dark arts. In 5 years from now, it will be a few dark dots in a sea of light. Call me an optimist, I’ve been called far worse. The next generation of CMs is coming, I meet them at drinks, events, conferences and guest lectures all the time. They are better educated, connected to more diverse networks, have the advantage of progressive insight (from previous generations) and a much better grasp of how to harness technology, complexity and systems theory. And it’s not just some of them, it’s all of them.
Good thing there’s enough Change to share for everyone. Perhaps not for all of us, but definitely for the ones who are paying attention to what appear to be unstoppable trends in Change that create a future state full of new mindsets, more interesting jobs and some serious benefits.
Unstoppable Trends in Change
The way we do Change and how we think and talk about it is starting to, well…change. Just check the opinions on the #ChangeBlogChallenge to see how we think about Resistance nowadays! In other news:
Engagements will become ever shorter, from months to weeks or even days and even if that sounds risky and less secure right now, we’ll be okay with that soon enough.
Client are getting change savvy and their expectations are shifting and lifting, while our own preferences are getting more specific too, not just any job is a good match any more.
We’ll stop the DOING and only come in to provide expertise, suggest a course correction and/or validate a strategic plan, no one will pay for us being onsite all day every day and we’ll agree with them.
The tangle of corporate labels for what we do will disappear and we’ll revert to what we have been all along, expert advisers who build capability and leave when we’ve done our part.
We’ll be analysing data, not doing analyst tasks ourselves as organisations will be capable to do all this for themselves and we’ll help build this capability from within.
We’ll build communities of interest for clients to maintain, with no place for method and model zealots, but lots of room for self-managed co-designing collaborators looking for practices that work in their space.
Your new Change Management role
All scenarios and client requirements aside, what is the job you’d most like to do? I tried to imagine how a combination of smarts, technology, experience and behaviours we praise in others could be crafted into new Change roles. Forgive the hyped name tags, they are really just descriptors. Obviously, you can call yourself whatever you like, as long as you can actually deliver on the promise it holds. When I say ‘new role’, I mean mainstream practice, as in, everyone serious about change will be in one of these roles, not just the inspiring few we all follow and learn from on social and at conferences.
I can’t help but get excited when thinking about the future of the change profession, there’s just so much potential! Things will keep accelerating and we can’t really keep up but also don’t want to slow down or go back to simpler times (not really, right?). What’s holding us back now is the time it takes to gather intelligence and check the crowd’s pulse, but is this still really necessary or just a thing we tell ourselves? If we align existing resources, data and staff smarts, how fast can we really move while staying connected to the people in our care? I hope I will turn out to be right, because that means that in the next five years most of us will be working in one or more of these 30 roles:
Complexity Unravellers will use their impressive mind power to see through the mist of corporate detail and busyness noise to tie things together in a way that makes people stop and notice the bigger themes to focus on.
Context Clarifiers will combine all kinds of media and information on a specific and scoped topic of choice and relate it to the change on hand, providing strategic and practical recommendations to achieve success and avoid (un)known pitfalls.
Storytelling Visualisers will work with multiple teams in multiple organisations and create visual artefacts that express their role(s) in and view on the change as they experience it. This will allow that team to have meaningful conversations and share their creative concepts instantly.
Experience Curators will help businesses run through the cause and effect implications of their proposed ideas and select the experience that suits their style and culture, one-size-fits-one.
Social Network Builders will unlock the collaborative potential and wisdom of any workplace by constructing networks, making introductions and connecting technology to human interest.
Ethics Checkers will come in to see if businesses are really living their values and are operating ethically, making suggestions on how to be better at doing good and staying true to their purpose.
Truth Speakers will be valued for their ability to call-it-like-they see-it in an engaging politically incorrect way that reserves judgement. Like your mum, but now you’d pay her.
Problem Solvers will provide other Changies and project managers with detailed solutions to specific elements of practical implementations, coffee date optional.
Strategy Translators will convert strategic management speak into punch and meaningful ‘what’s in it for me’ statements that actually tell teams and individuals how change will impact them and what they can get out of it.
1-page plan Creators will surpass the full-day workshop model and work with individuals and or teams to help them create their own plans using any framework that works and guiding them through it with doing it for them (they’ll want you to, but you won’t let them)
Culture Analysts will create a cultural profile based on workplace observations, interviews and experiences combined with all available models and an agnostic view that provides an outsider perspective from the inside.
Corporate Educators will do mini-seminars and one-on-few engagements across organisations on very specific topics to give people the smarts and capabilities they need for success. Like a workshop, but driven by their needs instead of the knowledge you want to sell.
Sense Makers will get paid by companies and communities to do the hard thinking for all of us, asking the hard questions and finding answers, a bit like Patreon for Change content (articles, papers, posts).
Newcomer Coaches will get paid by new entrants to the profession to share experiences, open up doors and possibilities and provide advice on how to ‘steal their jobs’. Putting a price tag on it makes it very transactional but will also allow rating of the quality and value add of the ‘wisdom’ shared.
Change Architects will design tailored change experiences and then leave them to own and do it themselves. This would be my dream job as it allows me to be a builder and trusted advisor with a real responsibility to make things work. Also, I’ll have lots of toys to play with.
Adaptation Preppers will remain mostly invisible and lay the foundation for next change specialist to come in and start the change. They excel at aligning resources, setting things in motion and giving people different change perspectives.
Data Demystifiers live to pull patterns and trends from process and system data in support of the change. Also known as ‘really good BAs’ (not Baracus…) Once they’ve figured out how the pieces fit together, they write up the potential outcomes and make recommendations on how to get better quality data for even more and sharper insights.
Ethnography Mappers will bring out the best in any workforce, playing to individual strengths and setting clear expectations on what can be achieved with the current capacity and capabilities, this includes behaviours and skill growth opportunities.
Behavioural Experimenters will join a team or organisation to facilitate the trying out of new practices and values in ‘live’ environments. They literally show you how it’s done, walk-the-talk and evaluate the fit-for-purpose and adaptation.
Business Partners are exactly that, specialist change partners with lived experience for what that part of the business needs. Like HR BPs, but for the change in a specific area. They identify barriers, elicit requirements and provide good practices in case there is no precedent or experience to draw from. Many will aspire to be this, few will achieve it.
Digital Enablers exist to fit technology and tools to individual needs and wants for specific roles with respect for each person’s learning style and digital literacy. It’s the end of generic training as we know it, think individualised micro-credentials.
Workspace Redesigners are architects of collaborative structures and systems, helping businesses blend various types of workspaces into productive physical, off-site and virtual environments where people can do their best work based on their needs instead of how the building was designed.
Expectation Testers will follow closely after or work alongside Adaptation Preppers in matching staff, management and executive expectations throughout a change trajectory, they’re like a Change thermostat, reading the room and displaying the ‘temperature’. They get to check assumptions and say really unpopular things that need to be said, building a reputation for being a positive realist.
Process Tinkerers are process improvers with unlimited curiosity, the ‘what does this button do..?’ kind of people who just try stuff, often fail and sometimes figure out brilliant new applications and ways of doing things. You’ll want to give them a specific task or they will wander off and goodness knows what happens then!
Customer Impersonators will not design any user interface, they will BE the interface and play the role of the customer of the process, service or product, providing instant feedback. This will provide a truly independent and objective outside view proving priceless in a market with ever shorter life-cycles.
Diversity Accelerators will combine analytical skills, behavioural science and social awareness into bringing more colour, ‘outside’-skill sets, gender parity and fairness to team and organisational cultures. This will be one of the most important but also most challenging roles as there is real potential to unearth toxic cultural elements that need addressing.
Performance Reframers, also lovingly known as Metric Monkeys, will take your current KPIs or OKRs, pull them to pieces and come up with metrics that make your teams feel empowered and engaged. Start looking forward to reading reports that focus on things that truly matter for (a) Change.
Status Quo Deconstructors could also be called Rebels With A Cause. You’ll ask them to join for the specific task of breaking old and outdated stuff and providing a better way forward. Disclaimer: be careful who you hire, it’s all fun and games until someone loses a business and sometimes it’s a thin line between disruption and destruction. Totally worth it, though.
Reputation Aligners look at all your brand expressions, match them with the internal change narrative and will pinpoint where you’re not ‘living your values’. For change to work, consistency and congruency are key and you’ll want to get this right, so pay them well and listen to their advice as your reputation is priceless and increasingly vulnerable.
Safe Space Identifiers, a.k.a. Bully Hunters are the worst nightmare of office tyrants, corporate psychopaths and stationery hoarders. They’ll do cultural assessments from the point of view of the most vulnerable groups in your organisation and recommend how to create a work scape that everyone (who is mostly sane) gets to enjoy, not just the powerful.
Your mind might already be racing ahead and thinking. “Ooo, and then I could also do this, and that, and that…”. Me too, but that’s unlikely to be the engagement model moving forward and that is probably a good thing. If I happened to be really good at this one thing, but only average at the next steps, the right thing to do is step aside and make room for a more qualified fellow Changie. She’ll probably do a better job than I could and probably also enjoy it more. The client will remember that you put their interests ahead of your own, I don’t have to tell you who gets the repeat business, right?
The ‘What’s In It For You’
Yes, contracts will be shorter and jobs less secure, but if you ask me job security is a bit of a myth anyway while the benefits just keep stacking up:
Every day you work truly adds value
You make a tangible and visible impact on things that matter
You’ll get to command higher rates for your higher quality work
You’ll develop broader experience across organisations
You’ll be exposed to more experiences to build skills
Performance feedback will be instantaneous, boosting your learning
You’ll fail fast, learn and improve even faster
Say goodbye to corporate games and red tape BS, you’re done before it catches you
Flexible teams mean more diverse collaboration
Finally you get to act on your ideas and deliver truly innovative work
You’ll make better matches or negotiate quick break ups when it’s not working for both parties
Contracts become meaningful engagements that make you proud to be involved
Nice to have add-ons
And then there’s the things we can all aspire to be more in our current jobs, feel free to interpret these suggestions as freely and creatively as you please. But just to be clear, no actual glue guns are to be used at any time!
Do It Yourself Role Creation
Perhaps you’d like to create your own Change role for the future. The recipe is quite simple:
Start with a theme your future organisation and/or clients might need to deal with
Think of an easy to understand word that describes that need
Now add an active verb that describes what you’ll do (extra points for humour)
See if people understand what that means (you’ll get great feedback)
Wear that label proudly while you saunter into the future!
To wrap things up and get you started, below are some ideas for step 2 and 3, just make sure you do a sanity check before printing those new business cards. Unless Potential Critic, Conflict Amplifier or Happiness Reverser are really your thing, then go right ahead of course.