THE BLOG

Change Management Fails for Three Reasons

07/18/2013 06:59 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2013

Reason Number 1: Change consultants are insufficiently equipped on a personal level.
Reason Number 2: Most change models are incomplete.
Reason Number 3: Capacity is widely overlooked, on all levels.

There is a way to successfully engage large-scale organizational change. It's complex. It's takes longer. It's more expensive. But it works.

1. Change Consultants Need More Personal Development
"Too often...we remain stuck in old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future." (Peter Senge, 2004)

Change is imminent and requires immanent capacity. We all know that the 21st century brings global economic, political and ecological realities that are unprecedented in history. Yet most do not know that the mystery of advanced adult development is a key to transformative leadership "Different leaders exhibit different kinds of action logic--ways in which they interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged." (Torbert, 2003)

Adult Development--Why Does it Matter?
These action logics--ways people interpret and react to the world around them--develop on a scale of increasing capacity. Research shows that leaders who exemplify higher levels of action logic are better equipped to lead organizations in this era. They bring qualities of immanent capacity. Like hikers at the top of a mountain, people at higher levels of adult development can see more of the whole picture, and therefore how to help others reach the peak. What was impossible from a lower vantage point suddenly becomes possible.

Change consultants who aren't operating from this higher viewpoint are like mountain guides who have never summited. The number one reason change management fails is because most consultants haven't developed these higher action logics.

It's Not Easy Making it to the Top
Only 10% of leaders have been identified at the third highest measurable action-logic, a level called "Individualist." These leaders interweave competing personal and company capacities, and are thus able to "create unique structures to resolve gaps between strategy and performance."

Far fewer leaders enact the second highest level of development--only 4% display the "Strategist" capacity. Exercising the power of mutual inquiry, vigilance, and vulnerability for both the short and the long-term benefit of the whole system, they are capable of generating organizational and personal transformation.

The most rare form of leadership is called "Alchemist," represented by merely 1% of all leaders. These leaders generate social transformations by integrating material, spiritual, and societal transformation. (Torbert, 2003)

Information isn't Embodiment
The consultant can't just think like an Alchemist--they've got to embody the alchemist's way of being. The call to embody is integral to their personal life, professional leadership and life purpose.

Embodiment is the process of becoming fully whole. Your body is your ally, in every moment. Another way of saying that is, "lived embodiment is not only a means of practical action, but an essential part of the deep structure of all knowing." (Benke, 2011) Let's agree that it's an evolving concept, and a moving target at that.

2. A Complete Change Model
By now you're thinking, "Great, but how?!" The answer is simple, but not easy. First, each person must increase their capacity; to walk the walk of true personal breakthrough and ongoing practice to embody higher levels of development. Second, the organization must engage a process that accounts for the non-linear, complex nature of real transformation at scale.

This is where the "Change Leaders' Roadmap" comes in. Linda Ackerman-Anderson and Dean Anderson have road-tested a process for over 30 years that delivers organizational transformation, but only in spades.

The Change Leaders' Roadmap provides 9 specific phases:
1. Preparing,
2. Creating organizational vision,
3. Assessing design requirements,
4. Designing the desired state,
5. Analyzing the impact,
6. Planning and organizing for implementation,
7. Implementing the new state,
8. Celebrating/integrating the new state, and
9. Course correcting as the new state takes hold in the organization.

These phases were developed by the duo as they documented their progress over the last three decades, accounting for their failures, and iterating the process until it clearly galvanized large scale organizational transformation, every time. All successful transformation goes through all nine phases. However, within each phase there are many options for customizing the process. Think of it like a 'Leatherman' multi-tool. Every possible action is available, while you may not need them all.

The coolest part of using the roadmap is that it includes all four 'lenses' of (1) process, (2) systems, (3) internal/external (4) consciously for a more efficiently managed, designed, and implemented process. Without the ability to see all of the lenses, one is bound to overlook obvious issues during the change process, or worse, to fail to ask the right questions. The leadership agility added by these perspectives is crucial to providing successful change leadership.

Personal practice and the "right use" of the Change Leaders' Roadmap comprises one of the change leadership industry's most advanced trainings, called "4Sight: Advanced Transformational Change Skills." Regardless of process, large-scale changes are destined to fail without embodied leaders using an integrated change process.

3. Capacity is widely overlooked, at all levels. Large-scale organizational transformation requires internal capacity development. Capacity in this case means the obvious: dedicated personnel, people who have time within their normal working hours to design, plan and coordinate transformative change processes. There's an unfounded belief in most organizational cultures that goes like this, "We've got this! Our people can (just do this too, even though their plates are full!)" Without these resources, the best-laid plans are short-sheeted.

Another blind spot related to capacity is that companies seeking change fail to use an integrated process methodology, such as we described above. But that's not enough!
Transformational change requires executive sponsorship, leadership development, an integrated process methodology and the resources to actually integrate and execute these processes. Large-scale transformation is not outsourced to a consultancy. The consultants must teach the company to fish.

The largest change management consulting companies fail to teach their clients to fish. They might offer to do some leadership development, or to bring 'customized solutions', but these aren't always connected in practice, nor are they sufficient. In fact, they often lack the level of change development skills, and over-focus on content - 'solutions.' The mistake is to provide a client with 'the answers' without engaging them in planning, designing, or implementing these changes. Thus, it's like heading to a cook-out, wherein someone else catches, cleans and grills the fish; and simply talks to you about that process. Had you held the pole, reeled that bugger in, and fought the good fight yourself, you'd learn how to keep it on the hook. Nothing suffices for real experience.

Consider that there is a lot that we don't know that we don't know, as transformative leaders. Some of us have learned about what lies in that dark corner called change management, and have shed considerable light on it. Being First holds the flashlight, and is happy to shed more light on your consulting practice.


Works Cited
Ackerman- Anderson, L., & Anderson, D. (2010). Change Leader's Roadmap: How to Navigate Your Organization's Transformation. USA: Pfeiffer.
Benke, E. A. (2011, August). Husserl's Phenomenolgy of Embodiment. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/husspemb/
Burger, B. (2011). Esoteric Anatomy: Body As Consciousness. San Francisco, CA: North Atlantic Books.
March, S. (2013). Integral Action Design. San Francisco, CA, 2013.
Peter Senge, C. O. (2004). Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. New York, NY: Crown Business.
Torbert, B. (2005, April). Seven Transformations of Leadership. (H. B. Review, Ed.) Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: http://hbr.org/2005/04/seven-transformations-of-leadership/

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