Are we in danger of "de-humanising"​ Change Management? by Ron Leeman

Just a short one for you this time.

A while back I made some comments against an article called “Will Change Management stay in the Dark Ages forever?” which was all about “investing in a Cloud based platform that integrates change management learning, analytics and planning into one easily accessible solution.” This was clearly a “salesy type article” but it did get me thinking about the subject because I had also seen numerous other posts/adverts for “change management platforms”. 

Before we move on here are some extracts from my comments were:

  • “It is arguable that those who want the online dashboards, the C Suite, are those that are furthest away from the people in the process.”
  • “I am not against digitisation per se but there has to be a balancing act between digitization and human interaction. If you veer to far toward the former you lose sight of what it is you are supposed to be doing for the latter.”  
  • “It is arguable that this learning/delivery process is best done digitally. You learn by doing and immersion in the process and not through an online platform.”

Btw whilst the author replied in detail to other comments all I got against mine was “Thanks for your comments Ron”! Not sure why that was!!!

Anyway sometimes things just give you the urge to want to respond and what did it for me was at the end of the article the author says it says “It’s time that change management takes the same road as many other business functions. We need to play catch-up. We urgently require the digital transformation of change management.” Mmmmmmm … really!

But like always I am not one for “knee jerk” reactions so I thought about it for a while. Also never being one to think that what I say is correct I will always delve a little deeper into subjects to see what information I can glean to either corroborate, or otherwise, my viewpoint.

Enter stage left that now familiar Google journey using “digital change management tools” as my search string!

The first thing I will say here is that this search took some time as there was confusion of the term Change Management e.g.:

This was very frustrating as it meant that I sometimes had to delve very deeply into articles to determine which type of Change Management it was. The fact that there is still this misunderstanding worries me greatly.  

What Did My Search Reveal?

Anyway notwithstanding that I did come across an interesting resource from which I could springboard my journey of discovery called “10 Of The Best Change Management Tools Of 2019” (Google it for more details). Now I’m not going to go into detail about these but I have just selected a few where I was able to get a high-level understanding of what they actually sought to provide

They all look pretty interesting tbh but my immediate thoughts were as follows (I say this from a position of not having delved too deeply into what exactly these platforms do and not having had a demo):

  • They all look a little too rigid ... remember change is not linear.
  • What is the overhead with these ... how long does it take to learn how the platform works, how long to input data and how long to extract results? It is arguable that all these detract from what you are trying to do? As the author of the original article said "One of the ‘push-backs’ I frequently hear is that change management is all about people and this can’t be done online."
  • Would these digitised platforms fit with the culture of the organisation you are working in ... do people actually want masses of information to tell them about X, Y and Z?
  • Are they merely a tool to keep the C Suite happy ... as we know they all like data even if they don't understand the mechanics behind it?
  • They all come at a cost ... of course they do!

Tbh I decided not to go any further than that one article and the consequential review of each platform because that gave me all the answers/information I needed.

A Personal Perspective

In the past, yes, I have to admit that I have often been embroiled in having to create nice "sexy" slide decks to satisfy Steering Boards, C Suite Executives, key Project Stakeholders on subjects such as:

  • Business Readiness.
  • Training
  • Communications
  • Impact Analysis.

And I would agree that they have been an overhead but, I would argue (with my limited knowledge) not more but probably less than that of the digitised platforms.

What Type of Change Manager Are You?

Before I finish let me go back to the phrase "change management is all about people and this can’t be done online" I would say that depends on how you practice Change Management! 

Sits in front of the laptop/desktop for the majority of the day playing about with dashboards and creating pretty graphs and slide decks to satisfy whoever it is they need to satisfy then YES use these platforms/dashboards.

Primarily concerned with the people side of change and can provide necessary and relevant data to satisfy whoever it is that needs to be satisfied using conventional tools then NO don’t use these/platforms/dashboards

Finally, My Question

Do we, as Change Managers with our resolve to help and guide PEOPLE through change need to get on board and become more digitised in the way we operate or do we still continue with what we have always done well in the past which is spend more time with people and create bespoke outputs as necessary?

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I started work for the UK’s MoD and after completing intensive training at the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham (now the UK’s Defence Academy) I worked for them as a Work Study Practitioner, and Organisation and Methods Officer which involved observing people working, making changes to ways of working and then measuring them to determine efficiencies. I call this the forerunner of Change Management. Following the MoD I had a stint with Abbey National BS/Abbey as a Business Analyst, Productivity Consultant and Senior Business Consultant. After Abbey, I started as an Independent Change Management Consultant and worked in many industry sectors but all involving change in some way, shape, or form. I now live in Thailand where I continue my change work such as researching matters of interest concerning change, coaching & mentoring for change management and authoring consulting frameworks and business templates. I still do the odd project in the Region just to keep “my hand in”. In 2012 I was recognised as a Change Leader by the World HRD Congress.