If my company doesn't change we don't have to manage change, right?
Right, because you'll be out of business. Dramatic change flies in the face of the basic human instinct to remain comfortable, but in today's world of mergers and acquisitions, new technology and rising customer expectations, only those companies that are willing to adapt to change will survive. True change management involves a clear understanding of business processes from one department to the next, mixed with a heavy dose of human psychology. Successful companies will learn not only how to manage changes as they happen, but to predict them before they appear. And, like everything else, such understanding has to start with senior management.
What kind of change are we talking about?
Technology is one of the chief reasons change management has become a buzzword and a flourishing area for consultants. Implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, for example, means changing the way people in nearly every department work. Ditto for knowledge management, which decrees an entirely new way of capturing, sharing and disseminating knowledge. If the people behind the technology-and the executives who signed off on its purchase-don't understand or care about the effects of new initiatives on the users, implementations are certain to fail, taking vast amounts of money down with them. Mergers and acquisitions also require companies to change. They throw together people who are unaccustomed to working with one another and shifting the balance of power between the acquiring company and the acquired.
What do all these change management consultants actually do?
The good ones will actually do what they claim to do: help your organization through transitions by talking with key managers, determining which employees are most likely to be affected by change and helping draw up a plan to make change as effective and as painless as possible. The bad ones will simply extract a large fee for hanging out for a while, nabbing a free lunch here and there and throwing around some jargon.