Bruce Fritch, Strategic Snapshots: Refreshing Our Perspective

Transforming the Change Management Confusion

With a twinge of self-consciousness, a brilliant doctor related to me how for two weeks she repeated an error each morning on her one-mile commute to work. Despite the daily inconvenience that occurred, she drove her habitual morning route, consistently forgetting about serious road repair construction a block from her clinic. So she was forced to detour each morning. Such is the power of habit, and the mindset of routine. She joked that the cup of coffee she consumed at her clinic shifted her into a higher state of consciousness.

Her wise insight: People tend — particularly when disengaged or detached — to remain in habitual behavioral patterns unless they consciously engage new behavior patterns. Her insight shines a telling light on the failure rate of transformational change.

Managed ConfusionThis failure is estimated as 70% by McKinsey & Company consultants. Organizations have nominally challenged themselves with significant performance change intentions for decades, so what’s the problem here? If transformational change is dependent upon attaining new levels of correlated consciousness, what’s standing in the way? If the opportunity cost is so high and the problem is so ubiquitous, what truths are being ignored in corporate change management endeavors, 70% of the time?

There are a lot of books and articles on “change management”, and they appear to me to miss several fundamental points. The most important success factor in my experience is that the entire leadership team must shift into a change leadership orientation.

I want to suggest a few points for your consideration, and I propose that each obstacle can be removed by change leadership correlated with effective project management. Hence, leadership influencing management.

  • There is a significant difference between a change management culture and a change leadership culture. Hence, the adjective distinguishing the change philosophy is materially important. This is particularly true when change management presides in transaction-minded organizations that habitually quantify performance.
  • Change leadership takes greater responsibility for inspiring human potential and being comprehensive, long-term and culturally attuned. Leadership increases the capacity for measurable changes in performance, consciously.
  • Most executive teams self-congratulate, relax and delegate long before they arrive at a point of profound effectiveness when it comes to change leadership. Those that avoid this trap have a huge competitive advantage.
  • When transformational change is approached with “change management”, the probability is that short term pressures and a tactical project management mindset will preempt considerations about culture and sustainability.
  • Sustainability is largely embedded (or not) in organizational culture and process technology. Both require a long-term — comprehensive and deep — commitment.
  • Culture is the engine for organizational effectiveness. Like athletic fitness, three dimensions are critical to greater performance: muscular strength, continuous learning and agility. None can be presumed. Each can be developed. Yet, many companies do not invest in culture change when profits are deemed reasonable, and shun investing in culture when profits are considered inadequate. Culture development occurs top-down and then virally. Superficial approaches waste resources.
  • The most remarkable indicator of performance capacity and aptitude for change leadership is employee engagement. Workforce engagement in the U.S.A. averages 30% (Source: Gallup); the performance engine is barely idling with low engagement.
  • So significant and sustainable performance change requires a quantum shift in leadership that culturally enables such change, and supports change management at the tactical project level.

Among other benefits, change leadership raises the consciousness of the workforce and inspires mechanisms for organization-wide learning that shift habitual behaviors toward the fitness and agility needed for transformation.

Fritch Consulting facilitates business growth by collaborating with leaders who are striving with core-values to insightfully "do the right thing." I write and speak out of my deep concern for the current crisis of integrity in leadership, with the hope of creating a more discerning conversation and promoting effective action.

Your viewpoints are appreciated and I would be happy to continue the conversation — so I encourage you to Comment below or contact me directly: [email protected]. — Bruce W. Fritch

  • Rick Deitchman

    Bruce: I like the distinction between leadership and management – had not really considered that distinction, so it will be helpful in my consultations with folks dealing with business culture

    Rick Deitchman

    • Thank you, Rick. The distinction between management and leadership is rarely made, today. Before the 1990s, it was a much more prevalent conversation. By about 1995, it began to be commonplace for anyone in a supervisory position to be referred to as a “leader”, and not long after that we began to see “Leader” in functional titles. The problem is the distinction is fundamentally important, so when the terms are used synonymously, the important distinction eventually vaporizes. Today in business, “leader” is used without helpful precision, and who wouldn’t want to be called a leader, whether it is earned or not? Ego is served, but the practice and the experience others gain from real leadership has eroded. Most social roles are acquired by emulation – matching behavior – consciously and unconsciously. Those in high authority, who act in a self-absorbed way, without core human values, and are regarded as “leaders” because of their distinctive authority in the organization, dilute and distort the whole notion of leadership. Emulation is far more powerful in the broad and the subtle learning of leadership. Leadership emulation has a far greater influence than leadership books or articles or most non-emersive leadership training programs. So, the quality of the leadership that is proximate and observable in the culture is the most powerful influence. And when the quality of leadership is poor, the organization and the world do suffer the consequences.