Change Management is Not a Commodity!

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I got a call this week. Someone wanted a plug-and-play change management consultant. “How much will it cost for you come in and tell our first line managers what to expect when people resist these big changes we’ve got planned, and tell them how to handle these situations?” He only wanted the price for doing this. He didn’t want to know how I might approach this task. He only wanted the price. Because, if change management is a commodity as he suggests, then one vendor is as good as another. And one approach is as good as another.

I asked if this training session had the full support for the executives. The answer was no. It isn’t that they didn’t support it, they just don’t know much about it. I told him that could be dangerous. It could not only be a waste of money, but could make matters worse once the supervisors realized that the people above them weren’t likely to understand or approve the things I taught these supervisors. You could almost hear the impatience in guy on the other end of the line. I’m sure he wanted to say, “That’s all fine, but what’s your price?”

I understand the desire to want to make life go as smoothly as possible. When I need a plumber, I just want to call one and get the leak fixed. Unfortunately, change management doesn’t involve pipes; it involves people. And that can get even messier than a plumbing problem. There are subtleties that go into the mix. What’s the history of change in the organization? To what extent do people trust those in charge? Do people understand why this change is being initiated? Do they understand what the plan will be? Did they have any input into making decisions regarding the change? All those things, and more, work together making each change unique. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

I developed a change management strategy that gives me a pretty solid foundation for most of my work, but how I apply these principles and ideas varies from organization to organization and from change to change. It isn’t a commodity.