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No change in change

Over the last decade I found that I was writing regularly for not only for thechangefactor about all things organisational change related but also about leadership and people insights for altris. At times it felt like a veritable outpouring which also included two books. But in the last few months I’ve slowed down a lot to a bare trickle. Have I dried up? People have asked me and others have gently commented . So have I dried up and got nothing to say? Well the truth is I’m doing everything I ever did and that was watch clients in action and reporting what I saw (no names mentioned to protect the innocent), but now as I watch I’m saying to myself ‘seen that before’, ‘wrote about that in 2009′, ‘chapter 6 of the book’.

And there is the problem in change I think. It’s not that ‘I’ve seen it all’; it’s that we are still struggling with the same issues. All the blogs I read and ‘new’ products, processes and approaches I see are mostly dealing wit the same issues, just packaged for another generation of managers and change agents. The problem is that the change industry hasn’t fully solved the problems of change, we are just dealing wth each group of managers we work with coming through their change experience and learning from it the same way their forebears did. Sure we have better tools, apps for everything, online stuff that make comms easier or provide instant access to our resources. And the industries where we are driving change have changed a lot too but that means more people using multiple computer screens compared to the days where the computer was the change.But If every change agent boiled down the essence of what they do and distilled it down to an elixir of perfect change that we could sell in online change supermarkets then I’m sure it would come down to managers and the way they operate (or don’t operate) with their staff and the elixir would be ‘perfect change leadership’.And this is why when I look at what my clients are doing, the models they are buying (often for big $) and the expensive processes they are paying for their people to learn, all of them seem to be sold on to the idea that if we all followed the perfect process, installed the perfect culture, did things the same way then change would miraculously happen. And all of this ignores the one great unpredictable variable in our workplace and that is our people. The inconsistent, non processable, unique and flawed human beings whose creativity and intelligence we spend a lot of money going out to hire to then find that they don’t have the culture we want or that the way they are doing things needs to change. So we process them and train them and often ‘get them off the bus’ and I watch and I think ‘have you tried leadership?’ And the answer is often ‘we sent our managers on a training course so they must be leaders’. So I breath deeply and I watch and I still see a dearth of leadership in the day to day. Whole cultures of confused yet bright people waiting to be told what to do because they know they have to. Desperate for feedback yet only ever seeing the red pen marks through their report and wondering ‘why?’. Looking for guidance, for clarity, for a sense of belonging, for regular communications, for someone to engage in dialogue so they can understand our new heading. And they wait as managers have meetings with other managers and say they have ‘no time for this leadership stuff’ and then the new CEO comes in and demands change so another round of initiatives is launched based on me persons ‘success’ in another business. To be a change agent requires eternal optimism that your client/your organisation can make something happen, but sometimes I think we all need to sit our leadership teams down and say ‘if you lot don’t actually go out and lead and stop expecting us to do it for you, then we are all out of here and you can just get on with it’. Until we do, and they communicate, engage, listen, guide, feedback, support, then there will be no change in change.
P.s Martin would love all leaders to buy his book on change and not just leave it on a shelf with all the other books from their training courses held in expensive locations, but actually read it and yes, do something with it! If anybody can prove that they did and got a different result from usual he will happily give the earnings from the sale of that book to a charity of their choice. Honestly.

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