Eliminate change management

Positive change

We all know the usual routine – management identifies the need for more productivity and/or quality or a new strategy, the necessary actions are identified (internally, externally or a combination of both), this necessitates change, so now we ‘change manage’.

And it works……at best…..sometimes.

What we’re really doing here is coercing people to like the change we’ve decided on.  We’re doing change to them.

What if instead we did change with them?

As Peter Block says,

when someone states ‘we need to get everyone on board‘, the answer is ‘what makes you think you’re in the boat?

Imagine if, instead of management calling in the external experts, it went the other way around and the frontline team approached management and said

We’re out of ideas.  But if you can find $50k for those improvement consultants we were speaking to last week, we reckon we can work with them and find about $200k per year savings back to the business‘.

Would this require ‘change management’?

It wouldn’t even require management!

Impossible dream?

Not if the frontline makes the choice of ownership.

So how do we make this happen?

If you’re in a managerial role, here’s four things to consider….

1) Get rid of any practices, policies or systems that suggest there is a sovereign class (e.g. fancy coffee for managers, Blend 43 for the rest).  All of these send the message ‘you are not one of the people creating this organisation, you’re a subject‘.   Whatever rules apply to Executives apply to everyone.  This is not lefty propaganda, this is about removing the symbols that say ‘someone else is responsible for acting like an owner’.

2) Start sharing all information that any owner of the business or manager would have access to.  Truly confidential information (genuinely new patentable product plans for example) is quite rare.  And the risk of sharing is instantly outweighed by even the slightest increase in chosen ownership of the business.  It just takes letting go of the natural human need to control to feel safe.  And besides, if your area doesn’t get better, your job isn’t really that safe after all.

3) See the managerial  role as 5Cs – convening, context, clarity, conversation, contribution.   This means bringing people together as needed, ensuring the context in which everyone is working is continually discussed, ensuring everyone is clear on what they have promised to each other, and then making sure the conversations that need to happen actually happen.  And contribution means exactly that – contribute!  Be a part of the circle with your team.  Not dominant.  Nor abdicating.

4) Stop seeing the managerial role as one of protection.  You are not there to shield the team from reality.  They’re adults.  Executive management disappointed?  Tell them.  Competitors taking market share?  Tell them.  Restructure on the cards?  Tell them.  If ‘you can’t handle the truth‘ is part of your thinking….ask yourself who you are really protecting.   It’s not them that can’t handle the truth.


These are just four things to consider.  The point is to see each conversation, each opportunity to review a work system, each decision as an opportunity to ask ‘are we treating people like co-owners, or like children that we are parenting?’

Only one of these paths creates ownership.

And ownership is what replaces change management with simply ‘we’re doing this now because it’s better‘.

(If these ideas intrigue you, put Stewardship by Peter Block onto your must read list.)


Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

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