One of the things I’ve written about in the past is how to be a great consumer of Change or Transformation consulting. I find my best and most successful clients are those that have done their homework and who know the kind of partner they want to hire. Sometimes I’ll get a call about a potential project and the first question I’ll get is which methodology I use or am I Prosci certified. I’m always a little reticent to even continue the conversation because I’m concerned that they’ve decided the problem is a nail and Prosci or Kotter or Conner is the hammer I must use.
I guess I can understand why Daryl Conner or John Kotter or the Prosci organization want to tout their way as the RIGHT way. I just want to make sure that you, as the consumer of support for your change can make a better decision. I’m not saying that any of those organizations can’t help you, I’m positive that they can. What I am saying is that you might want to consider flexibility as one of your criteria when choosing a consultant.
I was talking with a few colleagues recently about our work helping senior leaders decode the human element of high-stakes decisions to maximize their results. We don’t all characterize our work that way, but I do. Some say they are change and transformation specialists, some say change and transformation coaches still others change management professionals. No matter what we call ourselves, I’m sure we can all agree that at our core we help organizations get from A to Z with as little disruption as possible.
So during this conversation, we were talking about which change thought leaders we followed and how they influenced our work. Several were clearly followers of Daryl Conner who wrote Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos, to name just a few of his books. Still, others loved John Kotter’s work – and frankly who wouldn’t. A few touted the Prosci methodology and others some lesser-known methods.
And then there was me. I love everyone’s work and take the best parts, at the appropriate times to help my clients. My CORE Accelerator™: Critical Outcome, Results & Execution framework allows for the uniqueness every project brings and puts the best thinking from myself and others to work. When pressed I tell folks that I am methodology agnostic.
I use what I think is best from who I think is best, as the situation requires.
From my perspective, different approaches and schools of thought can only make your solution richer and more sustainable. I discovered Daryl Conner when I was just starting out and was so thrilled with his straightforward approach. It helped me shape my own method with clients and introduced me to the importance of developing resilience. I had never thought about resilience before, but his argument of its criticality made me look for it and prove for myself and others how important it was.
John Kotter’s work speaks to executives in ways I might not have articulated myself. Sometimes I use his work to frame the challenges and get into the discussion. In fact, sometimes I find that using Kotter’s words is the only way to get an executive’s attention. And I’m OK with that. Because once I get their attention I can move the conversation in the direction that will lead us to the best solution in that moment, at that time.
Truthfully, I haven’t met a change book or article that wasn’t useful to me in some way. It’s why my bookshelves are filled with lots of books about change and resilience and communication. In fact, I wrote one myself: ChangeSmart: Implementing Change Without Lowering Your Bottom Line. There are lots of great blogs out there too. One I particularly like is by Dr. Jen Frahm at www.drjenfrahm.com. But there are many of them and if you approach them as holding part of the answer not looking for THE answer, you will find them useful.
But here’s my secret. I don’t just look forward to the latest and greatest books and articles. I look backward too. My favorite book about change and the one I return to again and again is one that was published in 1987 and might actually be out of print. The book is called After-Shock: Helping People Through Corporate Change by Harry Woodward and Steve Buchholz. The chapter headings could have been written last week. Chapter headings like Change: The Only Constant and The Change Model: Endings, Transitions, Beginnings and the content in them are as relevant today as they were 32 years ago. And William Bridges’ work on Endings, Transitions and Beginnings shows how impactful those concepts are, even today.
But here’s my purpose for writing this blog post. It isn’t to tout my favorite theorists or writers, but to simply say – there is no RIGHT way to go after successful business initiatives that will require your business to change. There will be better approaches depending on unique factors inside and outside of the business, but one RIGHT answer no matter what? Never.
So if someone tells you that utilizing exclusively Kotter is the way to go, or Conner, or Prosci or even Bridges, I would think again.
There is no one right answer, THE answer doesn’t exist.
Just as diversity and inclusion in organizations is having a (long overdue) upsurge, diversity in thought on how to decode the human element of high stakes decisions and help change your company for the better should too.