Managing change, responsibly

You probably live in a professional world where there’s still a huge gap between “how things are done” and “how things should be done”, and your role seems to be somewhat stuck in the middle grounds. Many battles are fought in the name of changing the way things are done, some of these battles will be lost, some of them won. Winning the war would mean to have changed everything there was to change — but that’s probably never gonna happen.

How do you prepare yourself for this constant state of tension, where you know you can’t change everything and you know that in order to change things you’ll have to adopt different techniques each and every time you are confronted with a change management problem?

The problem with organisational frameworks and methods is that they’re theoretical abstraction: in the real world, you will never find a client or a team of colleagues that will be excited to jump aboard into SCRUM or Agile, or whatever technique is your weapon of choice. In the real world, adjusting to change is first and foremost a matter on how you approach change itself.

Chances are that you’re not the CEO of the company, nor someone in a position to force a substantial change in a top-down, radical fashion — you would argue that bottom-up change management can happen, but in my experience that turns out in micro-managing change in a way that the final effect for the entire organisation in counter-productive, e.g. some small groups inside a larger company may be working in entirely new ways, but the global inertia is so strong that these groups, and change itself, remain an exception to the rule.

If you can’t force change (not that forcing it is a guarantee that it will happen) you have to handle a plethora of subtle ways on how to build change day after day.

I found a quite interesting reading, Process Bricolage: Theft, Mashups, and Digital Products, which is a brilliant and pragmatical explanation of how you should beware of the dangers of excessive fundamentalism in adopting this or that technique, while being able to cherry-pick the right approaches to the right problems.

Bear in mind that you always have an array of choices, even if it’s fashionable to say that you’re an expert in some well-known but fundamentalist approach.

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