ISPI publishes a weekly digest of news and information for performance improvement consultants.  Last week they published their top stories for 2011.  Over the next few days I will feature my thoughts on those I feel are particularly noteworthy.

First up is a look at change management vs. change leadership.

Before I comment on the substance of the story I want to note that the linked article is unique because contains a video presentation and transcript of the commentary.  Utilizing two or more modalities is a good practice for people who want their words to be remembered.  In this case, I really appreciated the transcript because the video does not improve the message in my opinion.  Its just 5 minutes of the author talking on camera.  Instead of watching the video, I scrolled through the transcript as the video played which helped me retain more.  Enough learning theory.

The point of the article is that “change management” is self-limiting and does not offer the growth potential of “change leadership.”  In the article the author acknowledges the role of change management but clearly favors change leadership.

Change leadership is much more associated with putting an engine on the whole change process, and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently. It’s more associated, therefore, with large scale changes. Change management tends to be more associated—at least, when it works well—with smaller changes.

What does change management look like? (Emphasis and comments mine)

  • Participants “are trying to push things along, but it’s trying to minimize disruptions, i.e., keep things under control.” (minimizing disruptions limits responsiveness which translates to missed opportunities)
  • The organization is “trying to make sure change is done efficiently in the sense of [the team doesn’t] go over budget—another control piece.  (fear)
  • It’s done with little change management groups inside corporations, sometimes external consultants that are good at that, training in change management. (great-we’re all trained, now what?)
  • It’s done with task forces that are basically given the whole goal of push this thing along, but keep it under control. (pushing is reactive, pulling is proactive)
  • It’s done with various kinds of relationships that are given names like “executive sponsors,” where the executive sponsor watches over this thing to make sure that it proceeds in an orderly way.  (change involves an element of disorder)

When I read the bullet points above I envision the car above.
Safe. Reliable. Orderly.

The author describes change leadership as an engine. What does it look like?

  • It’s more about urgency. “It’s more about masses of people who want to make something happen.”
  • It’s more about big visions. It’s more about empowering lots and lots of people.
  • Change leadership has the potential to get things a little bit out of control.
  • Change leadership requires “a highly skilled driver and a heck of a car, which will make sure your risks are minimum.” (risk kept to a minimum but not eliminated)

This is what I think of when I read these bullet points.
Safe, sure.  Reliable, if you take care of it.  Orderly, if you drive it right.

At the end, the author makes his case for change leadership.

The world, as we all know, doesn’t do much change leadership, since change leadership is associated with the bigger leaps that we have to make, associated with windows of opportunity that are coming at us faster, staying open less time, bigger hazards and bullets coming at us faster, so you really have to make a larger leap at a faster speed. Change leadership is going to be the big challenge in the future, and the fact that almost nobody is very good at it is—well, it’s obviously a big deal.

Is change leadership for you?  Have you missed a window of opportunity lately?  Are those windows open for less and less time?  While the author does not completely reject change management, he clearly believes change leadership is a necessary element of a successful business.

What does it take to implement change leadership?

  • A strong team with freedom to find opportunities and respond to them.
  • Upper management that is comfortable with some uncertainty and risk.
  • A culture that is confident in its abilities and mandate.

What would you add to this list?