Change Management – Using the Masses

by Krishna on April 4, 2006

Everyone has at one point in time heard the old cliché, “The only thing constant in life is change”. I was very surprised to know that it was a quote from François de La Rochefoucauld (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/François_de_la_Rochefoucauld), a French author who lived in the 17th century – not exactly a time of massive changes. Imagine what he would have said in today’s dynamic times, where the world is changing right before our eyes – technologically, socially and economically.

Change is indeed inevitable and is expected in today’s business environment. Most people working in business understand this. In fact, as Jack Welsh mentions in his book “Winning”, saying that one is against change is career suicide. Business leaders and executives constantly look towards transforming their organizations to meet the challenges. Yet it is also true that in spite of a general understanding of the need to change and adapt, one observes that change programs frequently fail and hears people constantly talk about other people opposing change and standing in the way of progress. Why this dichotomy?

One of my observations on this subject is that no one opposes a change that they proposed (“It is not me, it is you”). There is a general tendency for people to think that their ideas are the greatest and hence worthy of execution. They don’t place the same level of trust in ideas coming from others. Changes get executed faster when ideas and suggestions comes from employees rather than driven down from the leadership.

Why this rule is significant is this: Typically a change program is implemented to achieve a certain goal. Instead of proposing the steps to achieve the goals, if project teams or individuals are asked to propose their ideas to achieve the same goals, you will see individuals come out with suggestions that in some cases are much better suited to their situation.

It is not at all hard to ask someone to do exactly what they themselves proposed. In the end, the goal is achieved without all the change management structure associated with the program. This is the whole concept behind decentralization, delegation and autonomy.

Not all goals can be achieved through such a methodology. For example, bringing in an ERP system to create a better supply chain demands that every person change their way of working. Nevertheless, certain goals at project or organizational levels can be better handled by more freedom than less.

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