Once upon a time – when I was a young consultant – there was this thing my friends did called “change management”. I must have known more than a 100 change management consultants in my career – but I can count on one hand the number that stayed throughout the projects . Most were let go half way through by the customers .
If change is hard , change Management is harder . When a project has a budget cut – usually the axe fell on a change management consultant first . At one point in my career – I knew many consulting sales people who would add change management to a proposal , strictly as a way to take it off and make the deal look palatable to a customer !
If any term needed a rebranding – Change management was the one to beat . I have seen tens of CIOs roll their eyes if a vendor mentioned “change management” even in passing . And it became rebranded to “transformation” . The same people , the same methodology , more or less the same slides – but with a new name . It worked for a while before losing steam .
I – and customers – have asked the transformation experts on what is the difference between transformation and change management . The usual answer was along the lines of “it’s more strategic and modern” , or a smirk with “you don’t get it” .
Along the way came Hammer and Champy with Re-engineering . To match the theory to practice – ERP vendors and consulting companies started talking about “technology enabled transformation” as a new thing . Billions of dollars changed hands doing “as is” and “to be” analysis of businesses . And when that got ridiculous , some consulting companies and ERP vendors took a stance that “as is” didn’t matter any more and only “to be” mattered . This is the genesis of “best practices” and it’s CYA cousin “leading practices”.
Needless to say – I have hardly met a customer in three continents I worked in that was happy with “best practices”.
And off late , I started seeing a lot of buzz on “digital transformation” – and a bunch of repurposed power points . Sure there is a liberal dose of social, big data , predictive etc in the repurposed version , just like ERP and CRM were sprinkled on to all “technology enabled transformation” messages . I asked my old change management friends the “what is new” question – and they dutifully played back to me the “it’s more strategic and modern” line . I nodded and went my way .
And few minutes ago – my pal Jon Reed mentioned digital transformation on twitter and I had a snarky response . This post is just an extension of that . it’s all Jon’s fault :)
PS : I actually do think change management is a good thing and the rebranded naming is probably a minor issue that bothers only a few like me . Vast majority of projects fail – and I have seen it first hand – because customers don’t want to invest in it . And I have seen some top notch change management stuff helping customers enjoy big success .
Since it is a competitive market – vendors don’t push back on it when customers choose to ignore change management , even if they know customer will probably fail .
What is lacking in my opinion is good articulation to customers on why they should invest in it . Lofty messages doesn’t help once you pass senior leadership at CXO level . Would it be too recursive to say change management needs some change management ?