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Resilient and Reflective? Managing Change is for you!

Over the course of the past fortnight the Change Management Institute in partnership with Kite Change have been holding events to launch research aimed at identifying attributes that define and separate good and exceptional change managers.

If you haven’t read it, take a look here:

For me and everyone involved (Nathan Fuller, Melanie Franklin and Annabel Curwen) this study has been a labour of love. The Change industry is in a rapid period of expansion but we are still significantly behind our related cousins of Consulting and Project Management. None the less it is studies like this and the actions we take with them, that will continue to push the cause forward and cement Change Management as a permanent organisational function and set of individual capabilities.

The study uncovers some really interesting findings on education and pay within change but I think the most critical is the relative definitions for what we called ‘good’ and ‘exceptional’. For me what this study makes clear is depending on the type of change programme, the skills you need to execute will vary around some themes but two collections of themes will dictate how successful you are in your role. The other observation is that in change programmes, you need both types of change manager if you want the programme to succeed at all levels. Here are two others notable observations:

1. Resilience and Reflectiveness is fundamental to being successful in Change.

The top two traits for both ‘good’ and ‘exceptional’ individuals in change are the same – initially surprising but on reflection totally intuitive. Resilience, being able to deal with pressured situations time and time again, is a necessity when it comes to managing change. Of course this makes logical sense, change managers are at the coal face of resistance, they are the counsellors in change. If you are unable to deal consistently and appropriately with the many challenges implementation of change throws up you will hate what you do and subsequently fail at being successful. Developing resilience requires you to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and learn to deal with the outcomes. This is where the second fundamental trait comes in - reflectiveness. Now this isn't describing a zen like moment of realisation, in the psychometric, reflectiveness is the ability to learn from our experience and adapt. When described like that, it hopefully is obvious as to how the two end up top in both ‘good’ and ‘exceptional’ and actually are likely more linked than we give credit for in the paper. Being open and able to try and fail quickly whilst learning and going again is becoming fundamental to most organisations – most people think of it as being agile (note the little a).

2. Innovation not necessary ..... What?

It's hard to believe that Innovation does not appear to be critical in either change manager category. However, we have to understand that the immaturity of the market has a role to play. 80% of advertised changes roles are looking for those that can implement change, not define but implement. When execution is the focus, innovation is likely to introduce volatility in the delivery of successful change. It follows then that innovation, when executing change, will not give the certainty required to delivery in roles where delivery is what gets measure. This studies is not saying innovation isn’t needed, it just that the more you try to innovate when managing the delivering of change the less likely your to be considered successful yourself.

Now if asked to help define Change, right from the start, and help organisations build visions and describe the case for change well innovation is most certainly necessary. As I look at some of the change leaders around me they have an incredible ability to facilitate, question and often challenge senior leaders about why they want to do things differently – they build the case for change. Without innovation being facilitated at this level we cannot make the leaps organisations need to move their businesses – the cartoon selected is a nice reminder of that.

So What?……..

Some of the results of the study are counter intuitive but wonderfully insightful about how the industry values and measure success with regard to the change profession. The challenge currently is one of role definition and terminology consistency. It’s hard to identify, good, from great from exceptional and any myriad of descriptions in-between when the industry (change professionals and change recruiters) insists on defining the wheel each time. This study goes beyond that, although it starts out from a what is ‘good’ vs ‘exceptional’, what we arrive at in my view two distinct role types which themselves aren’t mutually exclusive in change. I could go on and on about this topic but let’s leave it to say this only just the start and I myself and very excited to see where this goes. We discussed so many possibilities at Tuesday’s event and we are busy writing this up into action plan….. watch this space.

The Change Management Institute is a volunteer, not for profit, organisation dedicated to providing the change community opportunities

  • to CONNECT with similar minded professionals across all industries

  • to build CAPABILITY through thought leadership, topical debate and educational material and

  • to offer CREDIBILITY to our audiences and members by association to a world recognised professional body and accreditation scheme.

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