Change Management Theories You Should Know

You may expect theories of change management to pertain to the three big models used in change management (such as the Kotter eight step model etc..). Well, those aren’t actually theories, but rather tested and proven models for affecting change within a given environment.

So it’s time to broach a discussion many are afraid to approach, but all are aware needs to be addressed; Change management Philosophy. Everyone debates the pros and con and weighs in with their opinion. But they do so too cautiously. I think everyone’s just waiting for one brave soul to come out and say something, so they can fall in line and give their two cents about how they really feel. What am I talking about? Well, it’s the philosophy behind change management, how you formulate your strategies and how you take advantage of existing models; all this is part of change management theory.

Ok, I’ll explain a little better. There are basically two dimensions to change management when you get right down to it – the human element and the logistical element. The human element pertains to how you deal with the people that must adapt to and follow the changes put forth, and the logistical element is your strategy for implementing the change. It consists of the implementation details.

When most people discuss the overall theory and science of change management, they separate these 2 areas. They take for granted that fact that these two concepts are easy to harmonize. And herein lies the inevitable clash of change management theories –Should you prioritize the human element; learning how to handle people and focus on your staff’s needs– are they at the bottom line?

Well, heck. If you ask the higher ups in most companies, their corporate training will cause them to instinctively tell you that process matters; if the sparrows can’t start quacking like ducks, then it’s their loss and the staff is expendable.

At the same time, more philanthropic people – HR managers, admin departments and the like will tell you that you have to put people first, and that if the bottom line causes treading upon the masses to get the job done, then the ends are not justifying the means. The emphasis should be on investing in change management best practices – on the human side.

To both of these, I say baloney.

Everyone is going to take one side or the other and the debate is going to go on… but I want to say this. It’s not actually impossible to achieve harmony. How do you do this, though? How do you synchronize human interests with cold statistics and logistics? The answer is to put the power of change in the hands of the people themselves. As a manager, it’s easy to want to micromanage everything, and most documents about change management best practices will encourage it.

But be a guide, not a task master. Compartmentalize your people, put the changes in front of them, explain the rules to them, and then incentivize them. Under the closer guidance of team leaders, you should instill confidence in your team, to affect the changes themselves, organically, (within a given amount of time).

I’ve tested this. It works. You don’t need to lean on cold numbers, nor do you need to pamper people, if you empower them to take responsibility for themselves, then change management will succeed.

So, which of the impending change management theories is correct? Both of them are. The trick lies in combining an effective organizational strategy while working to ease your staff into the new environment.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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