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Monday, 15 July 2013 13:40

Don't Be Fooled By the $25,000 Diagram

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It's time to become model-agnostic.

I'm a big believer in the value of theoretical rigor - I guess that comes from my graduate work.  In fact, I tend to think that anyone who works in a professional services field should have a solid grounding in the theories that underpin their specialty.  Change management, in particular, is a field that can so often get mistaken for a touchy-feely offshoot of HR, I'd like to see more practitioners with advanced degrees in the field.

meaningless diagram

(An example of a diagram which looks nice, but means almost nothing when you think about it.)

However - and it's a big 'however - it's important to remember that if all the change management models we learn in degree programs were as true as 2+2=4, we wouldn't call them 'theories'.  We'd call them 'universal truths'.

And therein we have the basis of one of the biggest problems in change management: The $25,000 diagram.

What do I mean?

All too often I see change management professionals who try to use the theory approach to solve every change-related challenge.  They dust off their favorite change management model from a textbook, plug in some numbers and arrows, add some bullet points about the marvelous results this model will magically achieve - and voila!  The client gets a nice-looking PowerPoint presentation, the heart of which is an attractive diagram that appears to demonstrate a few simple actions that will transform the organization.  And a bill for $25,000 for this insight.

There's a big difference between theory and implementation

Theory is great as far as it goes, but it's only part of the solution - in my experience, implementation, execution and results are more than 75% of the change process.

What's more, every organization is different, and so far I've never encountered one that fit neatly into a single change model or approach. There's always an angle that isn't accounted for in the theory, a business function which isn't accommodated in the handy 4-square diagram, and a learning curve which isn't reflected in the results grid.

So my recommendation, when you're planning your change process, is to take a model-agnostic approach.  Instead of relying on a particular theory, look for a plan which spends more time on how the implementation will roll out - and how it will affect your people - than on how it should roll out, based on the theoretical diagram.

Read 6054 times Last modified on Friday, 19 July 2013 05:24

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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