What Is The Goal Of Change?

Management by definition is about control, creating process and developing checklists to ensure compliance. Enablement, on the other hand, is about creating patterns of interaction which allow individuals to grow and develop. It even encourages destructive patterns of behavior, because we cannot change from the current state to the willed future without “doing things differently” [Drucker]. Change is not simply about doing different things. At heart, change is disruptive.

Management provides deliverables, with a focus on doing different things: we use strategy documents and plans; we develop checklists and conduct surveys; we focus on what has been done in order to project what needs to be done; and we rely on the roles and responsibilities of a select group of professionals.

Enablement is about interactions, with a focus on doing things differently: we coach for success; we facilitate group discussion and foster interpersonal interactions; we customize and adapt reusable simple assets without reinventing any wheels; we focus on accelerating the adoption of change; we rely on the roles and responsibilities of everyone affected by change.

What is the goal of change – outcomes or inputs? Broadly speaking, change management focuses on inputs, where change enablement focuses on outcomes. Is my project flying along because we are actually making change happen [outcomes] or because we are revisiting and revising estimated budgets, plans, projections, objectives and goals [inputs] in the face of complexity?

No one denies that change is complex, and in the end the real issue is how do we handle that complexity. The need to justify and measure inputs endlessly pressures us to focus on the documents needed to manage the change process, rather than on enabling and accelerating actual change. Without doubt it is critical to manage the change process; the real issue, however, is making change happen, that is, changing the current situation into the willed future.

Change enablers need to frame their interactions from the perspective that everyone involved in change, from sponsors to stakeholders to team members, are intelligent beings who have valid reasons for their actions. That puts change enablement squarely in a Contextual Leadership Ethos:

  • personally complex – real and perceived, psychological and social, physical and metaphysical;
  • contextually complex – including such things as: geography, genders, industries, job roles or titles, attitudes, beliefs, values, politics, cultures, symbols, organizational climate, the past, the preferred future, and personal ethics;
  • inter-personally complex – needing to recognize these contextual variables in self as well as in external and internal stakeholders.

 – Matthew Kutz, Toward a Conceptual Model of Contextual Intelligence: A Transferrable Leadership Construct, Leadership Review, Winter 2008

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