Don't "manage" change; co-create it

My professional focus these days is on leading change, which taps into my past communications and strategic planning work.

I am in a great HR shop with thoughtful (award-winning!) leaders who understand more about successful change management than I do, and certainly more than I did a few short years ago, when I joined the department. Back then, I would have described change management as "applied common sense" (probably causing my boss and many other Prosci-certified colleagues to cringe when I did). At the time, I felt the main manifestation of good change management was effective communications.

(To be honest, I still bristle a bit at the term "change management" because I believe it's less about managing change more about inspiring and empowering people to embrace changes, and laying the ground to ensure take hold.)

I've learned since what good change practitioners and change leaders already knew: successful change management is good sense, but it's not common and not always applied it in a consistent or intentional way.  

The case for co-creating change
Key to the shift in my understanding is the focus at my organization (from my own leaders in particular) on co-creating changes. When we set out to modernize pretty much all of our HR practices, processes and tools (starting in 2016 and winding up in 2018), I was invited to attend an inspiring CEB/Gartner conference on "open source change" where we heard some great co-creation case studies and compelling research.

In their 2016 workforce change survey, CEB found that only a third of change initiatives are fully successful, and over 50% fail outright.  The odds of success increase significantly when employees co-design the changes (+10%) or their implementation (+11%), and when communications are two-way (+8%).  In addition:

...employee engagement increases by as much as 38 percent
...discretionary effort increases by as much as 19 percent
...intent to stay increases by as much as 46 percent
We were also interviewing other companies at the time who had made similar changes to their HR processes and tools. They universally agreed that it was important to get started on "managing" change earlier than you think—at the design stage if possible. The companies who acknowledged they had stumbled pointed to their failure to do that.  

Putting it into practice 
So what does co-creation look like?

I'll provide some examples in upcoming posts, looking at specific ways we put this into action at my workplace, and I'll share a bit about what we (and I) learned along the way. 

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