Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Change is the process of moving from a current state to a new, improved state.  The business world is full of programs that are designed to manage this transition.  An alarmingly high percentage of these programs (some say as high as 80%) are claimed to have failed to have achieved what they were designed to do.

In my experience of actual people using actual technology to carry out actual business processes, this is not really surprising.  In fact, I would suggest in reality, we should be aspiring to acheive a 100% failure rate if change is the thing that we really are aiming for.  Of course in MBA courses, they could never draw it this way as total failure would not fit into 4 quadrants or a concentric circles diagram.

I contend that, in order to know that you need change, you must know that the place you are currently in is not as good as you would envisage.  In fact, I would suggest that for all of the places that I've seen, the current actual state is probably deemed (by those who are bound within in it) to be somewhat closer to a scene from Dante's Inferno - in fact, you might as well have these words engraved on plates above the front doors:
 "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here)
At this point it is generally decided that change is requiredd and so the business will create a vision to explain where we need to head and how everybody will feel when we get there.  They then "sell" this new vision to the people and this helps to create the feeling of optimism and hope that are required in order to bring about action to enact the change.

Finally - and this is the important part in my story - a formal program is created within the enterprise which is designed to enact the changes that have been agreed upon.  Even better, you might appoint a person to be involved in the change program and annoint them as an "agent of change".

The reason that these agents of change (programs and people) are important at this point is that we now have a physical vehicle to attach blame to for when things are deemed to be bad.  And I'm not necessarily saying this in a bad way, but think about the alternative.  Let me give an example:

  1. People complain about using network shares to collaborate citing that they cannot find things and the organization of information is poor
  2. A change program is created to improve the situation
  3. A modern technology is acquired and installed and training given to the users on how to use it
  4. People complain about using the new technology to collaborate citing that they cannot find things and the organization of information is poor

I can substitute the example with pretty much major change movement that I've experienced and the results are pretty similar - even though you may initially get some good results, the final result will mostly arrive at the same point to which I have observed in the example above.

So if this was the best that it gets, business would be screwed, there could be no room for optimism and everybody would feel like a failure.  But having an agent to point towards or to apportion blame against, provides us with the hope that things will become better.  In the example above, you may find people citing that things are worse than they were before because:

  • The technology was a poor choice
  • The change agent was a poor deliverer
  • The benefit that would fix a particular problem or concern was planned for a "phase 2" implementation
  • The business has not given us sufficient training or direction

Being able to purge these things from our system actually gives impetus to a new round of change and so the circle continues.

So we change, and we change, and we change again.  Even failed change is better than stasis as it creates activity which motivates people.  And a complete lack of change would lead ultimately to death.

1 comment:

  1. Very philosophical. Hope the agents of anti-change aren't getting to you.

    Ps. One word - Generic Checkbox Helper.

    Ahh well, it was going to be one word but I changed my mind ;p