Reflecting on Symphonic Change Management

Last year I did a short piece comparing change management to conducting an orchestra. I was fortunate to get some really positive and constructive feedback on this and really appreciated all the interest it generated. It was called Orchestral Symphonies in Change Management

and you can find a copy of it here.

Lately I have found myself using this analogy time and time again to describe what I do. I explain the work of the change management professional as the conductor of the orchestra and the light goes on with people. But it got me thinking, is this because people don’t know what change management is, or is it because people have a preconceived idea of change management?

A quick straw poll in the office I work at gave me an indication. I asked the 10 guys n gals around me what they understand by change management. All of them thought it was some form of project management, and one person thought it was something to do with IT projects and controlling document change – I think that’s change control! But at least he’d thought a little before answering. So I explained that project management is a linear process and change management is more of a matrix. Explaining it as linking together education, communications, people, technology and environment elements of a change event, whether it is project related, process change or anything. Usually a bit of finance is thrown in for good measure too!

So, there’s a small glimmer of understanding showing here, but they are still not getting it! So the pitch now moves to people. I explain the need to invest in the people to get the buy in for change, make sure they are communicated to properly, trained and educated properly and the workspace and technology is all in place. That’s change management in a sentence! I now get a twinkle of understanding, head nods and smiles. But then, as I expect, the killer question comes back – surely I can’t do all of the communications, training, education, etc. etc.?

I now explain that it’s as much about facilitating change, through and with others as it is about making the change. Here it comes, I’m like the conductor of an orchestra, I know who to point to when and what to expect from each person, but I don’t play all the instruments myself, however I know what they all sound like and I know how they connect to produce great music.

“Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!” the light goes on and there’s hope for change managers everywhere once again!

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