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change management


Change management? Stop wasting your time.

Your change management efforts are a waste of time. And effort. And energy. And money.

I just returned from giving a talk at the Association of Change Management Professionals in LA. Just as with corporate mergers, the vast majority -- from 60-90% -- of change management initiatives fail miserably.

Why? It's certainly not due to a lack of change management models, books, or conferences. I think the high failure rate is due to the framing: when we talk about change, we talk about how *we* will change *them*. I think that says it all. No one likes to be changed, even if the change is beneficial to them.

In my talk, I argue that we should forget about "change management." Instead, we should involve people in solving business problems. Human beings are problem solving machines. We love solving problems. Someone invented the bow & arrow when she realized that the fastest human carrying a knife wasn't going to outrun the slowest gazelle. The brilliance of Angry Birds is that each level requires a new round of problem solving -- which birds to use and where to aim them.

Of course, I'm partial to using A3 Thinking to solve problems, but the truth is that it doesn't really matter what problem solving tool you use. The key is to pose a problem to the workers actually doing the job and have them design the changeThe autonomy and skill development that comes with solving the problem for oneself will do more to overcome resistance and motivate change than anything that a cloistered HR professional can develop. Dan Pink makes this point eloquently in his book, Drive. And in her new book, Sleeping With Your Smartphone, Leslie Perlow recounts the enormous change in work habits she was able to foster among BCG consultants by simply setting a goal and having them work towards a solution themselves.

It's commonly said that successful change requires you to explain to everyone "what's in it for me." That's not enough. If it were, you wouldn't have meetings that start late and end later, your mailbox wouldn't be engorged with a daily supply 75 irrelevant reply-all emails, and you wouldn't have 20-30% non-enrollment in employer-matched 401(k) plans.