What is Relevant Change Management? by Ron Leeman

RELEVANCE = the degree to which something is related or useful to what is happening

There are so many articles, posts and comments about the demise of Change Management at the moment it seems like everyone is hell bent on assigning it to the grave e.g. here are just a few articles that I found doing my usual "quick and dirty" Google search:

  Organisational Change Management is Dead


  Forget about Change Management, Embrace VUCA for Leadership Development


  The Change Management Field Needs to Change, Before it's Disrupted


  We need to rethink Organisational Change Management


So is it dead? Does there need to be a rethink? Does it need to change?

Well, it’s a YES and a NO from me:

  • Yes … because clearly in this fast-paced age of technology innovation, let’s face it most change is triggered by technology now, we need to move away from the rigid models that everyone has been using to-date to something more akin to an approach that is more in line with the pace of change I mentioned at the start of this paragraph.

  • No … because there is still a need to deal with people and just because the technology is moving on a pace doesn’t mean that people can keep up with it so they need to guided and hand-held through the process. Also not all technology change is necessarily fast-paced e.g. ERP implementations still need to follow, to an extent, a series of activities that can’t necessarily be undertaken at pace.

We have to look at an approach that includes “pace” when it is needed but also can take “time” when there is no need for “pace”. I’m going to call this Relevant Change Management. But how do we practice it?

Let me suggest a few ways:

There is an old phrase that springs to mind which is like a “clarion call” to all Change Managers … it goes “we’ve always done it that way” so let’s turn that around on ourselves. Take a look at what we know and have been doing since "time immemorial" and adapt what we have learned and/or have been taught to see if we can cut out the “unnecessary” and streamline the “necessary”.

Take each assignment we work on as a stand-alone and use our acute understanding of the challenges to develop a bespoke approach that incorporates both aspects of “pace” and “time” for any given situation. This will mean taking everything we do into context and make rational decisions to categorise what we want to do into “relevant” or “irrelevant” actions and prioritise on “relevant”.

Look at different, more innovative ways of involving people to help them understand the change rather than e.g.:

  • Developing a cumbersome and rigid communications, engagement or training plan.
  • Undertaking a lengthy stakeholder analysis and engagement exercise that has you analyzing people sometimes for the sake of analyzing them.
  • Doing an impact analysis when it’s clear where exactly the impacts are going to be.

We Change Managers are sometimes to blame for being to rigid and inflexible because when we have done something before and it has worked we think it can work again. No not in today’s exciting new world order.

We should no longer foist “our way” on an unsuspecting public (the stakeholders) and automatically think they will be with us on the journey. This may mean a certain amount of personal “shape shifting” but hey we are Change Managers so shouldn’t we be able to manage changing ourselves?

As ever thoughts and questions are welcome as are likes and comments.


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.