Changing the change paradigm

In 2012, during a two-year London escapade, my husband and I visited the fair city of Verona in Italy. This is where you can find the famous balcony where Romeo promised his beloved Juliet eternal love in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
As we roamed the beautiful cobble-stoned streets, we saw that it was the opening night of the Italian opera. We seized this once in a lifetime opportunity, where we could sit on the stones of a first century Colosseum and listen to the majestic sounds that echoed in the open air of the birthplace of the opera.
As we listened intently, it did not bother us that we couldn’t understand the words, because the beauty of the sounds transcended any language barrier. As I watched in amazement, I could not help but focus my gaze on the orchestra.
A team of individuals;

  • From different backgrounds.
  • With different levels of education.
  • Using different tools.
  • Reading different manuals.
  • Producing different sounds.

All working together to bring to life a perfectly timed, perfectly tuned harmony.

An organisational orchestra 

So why do I mention the orchestra and how does this relate to change?
Well, think of an organisation as an orchestra, made up of many different departments;
• Each department has its own objectives, processes and priorities.
• Each department works within their own timing and produces its own outputs.
• Each person within each department plays a special role.
• Each role has its own specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Then you bring in a big new initiative that will change the dynamic of the entire organisation. So what does the organisation do? They hire a soloist change manager to manage the change. This soloist now starts their own department with their own objectives, processes, priorities, outputs, timing and KPIs.

Changing the change paradigm

Ron Ashkenas, co-author of the ‘Boundaryless Organization’ wrote an article in 2013 in a Harvard Business Review titled ‘Change management needs to change’. In his article, Ashkenas shares the following insight;

The content of change management is reasonably correct, but the managerial capacity to implement it has been woefully underdeveloped. In fact, instead of strengthening managers’ ability to manage change, we’ve instead allowed managers to outsource change management to HR specialists and consultants instead of taking accountability themselves — an approach that often doesn’t work.”

If everyone is affected by the change, why is it only the change department who knows how to deal with change?

Isn’t resistance experienced by employees across the entire organisation? Does the change manager or change department have the time or capacity to address every single employee’s concerns?

Do managers from other departments know how to overcome barriers to change within their teams? Are they aware of the importance of the change process or do they view it as another tedious box to tick?

I was speaking to an Agile coach, who said,

We see the change manager as that person all the way over there who works in their own department and we work in ours, there is minimal interaction.”

From change soloist to an orchestra of change
By building managerial change capabilities across the entire organisation, we can;

  • Ensure all managers knows how to take their teams through the change process effectively.
  • Break down those departmental silos, allowing everyone to sing from the same song sheet.
  • Produce a unified, harmonious symphony of change.

The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful
Benjamin Zander

What are your challenges when it comes to implementing change within your organisation?


For more insights on how to build your organisational change capabilities and make change stick visit The Change Hub.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *