The small difference…

…between change management and agile transformation

 Change and transformation are synonyms? Far from it.

The death of the caterpillar

 Change management does not turn the caterpillar into a butterfly. There is a need for change, so maybe the caterpillar grows hair. The next change is coming up and maybe the caterpillar develops stripes in signal color to protect itself from predators. A change leads from an initial situation A to point B and is largely plannable.

A transformation is more. The caterpillar dies to rise as a butterfly. A butterfly will never be a caterpillar again. The butterfly is a holistically new being. The transformation is complete.

The Change Mindset

 Change management is planned and announced in the company, sometimes purely limited to the business goals that are pursued with the change. And then? What really changes? Nothing. At least not for the employees. They may work somewhat differently, but the mindset remains the same.

If things go a little better, seminars on change management are offered. This is a good step, because good training leads to more resilience and less resistance in the organization. Change management seminars help to understand how change works and, above all, what happens to me in the process. Seminars also help people to become more capable of change – at least if they are consistently designed to offer sustainable and practical solutions. And in doing so, they increase efficiency and –  deal with permanent change. Successful seminars support the change process because it gives employees the chance to understand what is happening to them and what they can do to deal with the change. As a result, conflicts and resistance decrease and behavior changes.

But change management has its limits, even with good seminars. These limits are often exhausted in “permanent change“.

Attitude and behavior

Even if behavior changes: The attitude remains. As long as the attitude does not change, something new must always be added from the outside to keep the system running. The caterpillar still crawls slowly along the tree. Even with hair and new colors, it remains a caterpillar.

Change management comes from the outside and works on the inside. Change is extrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation works through carrots and sticks. Change management works as long as reward or punishment lasts. It often takes more and more of the same – more rewards, more pressure or both. It works. But only to a limited extent. The employees don´t make full use of their natural resources, strengths and passion. A lot of potential remains unused.

As long as attitude does not change, it makes sense for the employee to react with behavioral change only in response to pressure or reward. Change is always associated with risk, and if it is not necessary, then the previous path is the safer one. After all, it has led to survival up to this point: of the person, of the workplace, of the company. Lasting change means having to invest strength and valuable energy. There must be very good reasons for lasting change, otherwise it does not make biological sense.

How easy is it to move on after a successful transformation with an agile approach? The butterfly can fly!

It can also go wrong

But: let’s not fool ourselves. In a transformation, the outcome is open. It can also go wrong if it is not thought through to the end. Then it does not lead to the hoped-for change. Transformation is not just about the growth of hair or a change of color, which can be integrated into an existing system, the organism of the caterpillar, with a little rebuilding. Transformation should not be delegated to consultants. Transformation must come from within.

Future viability

Once the butterfly can fly, a whole new world opens up to it. Suddenly, everything becomes possible that was not even conceivable as a caterpillar.

In a disruptively changing world, the ability to permanently change is required in order to achieve true future viability. For the ability to constantly reinvent oneself, many things need to be understood, thought and done, reviewed and then thought and done again in a well-organized framework.

The transformation process of the caterpillar to the butterfly took many attempts in evolution. Your company may have only one chance.

That’s why developing and reviewing your own results, reflecting on what awaits you, is so essential.

You need a fear-free space for testing, with colleagues who are in a similar situation. You need peers who can understand you and support you. You need a space for reflection to illuminate your “blind spots”.

In Agile Transformation, skills are not taught, but acquired through one’s own actions.

Consultants are needed only where they supplement internal strength with their resources.

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