I have just sat through a level 7 lecture on change management. It made me angry.

The topic was a case study on some UK military base. It doesn't matter really.

There were several things that made me angry but all stemmed from the same basic flaw.

Organisations are complex adaptive systems NOT mechanical systems.

Let's see how this fundamental error manifests itself in today's lecture:

The Unfreeze-change-refreeze myth.

This change model doesn't reflect reality. You can't freeze dynamic systems. You can stop a machine, replace some components and start the machine. Human systems are dynamic, they are always in flux, and there is no steady state. We are in a constant state of slush. Culture is constantly changing. You can't freeze culture any more than you can stop getting older.

We need change experts to implement a process.

Experts can only exist in fields where we can guarantee outcomes. For example in the sciences (immutable laws govern cause and effect), medicine (evidence based approach to medicine and the fact that human biology is pretty consistent). Your local mechanic etc.

Experts don't exist in areas where there is no consistency. No two businesses are the same (what worked in one business has no guarantee of working in another). Change is constant (what worked last year may not work now) and the system is not repeatable (there are no formulas for success).

The Framework, Analysis, Recommendations approach to change management

This assumes the cause-effect relationship can be seen in advance. In complex systems cause and effect can only be identified in retrospect. Any consultant that claims to predict the complete outcome of a change management system in advance is lying to the client or is too ignorant to understand the difference between complex and mechanical systems. If the framework precedes the data then the quality of the analysis will be a slave to the biases introduced in the framework (premature convergence, categorization) Quality thinking will be diminished.

Change can be bought about through understanding the 'levers'

The idea of levers (obviously mechanical) suggests that we can determine the category and quantum of the change that will be bought about by our actions. Complex systems are nonlinear; small changes in the starting conditions can have big effects, it is almost impossible to predict the outcome before we take action. Unintended consequences will prevail, much to the surprise of the change experts. The phrase 'drivers of change' is the same.

Change process needs to be managed by the change agents.

Managing conformance to a change plan is a linear (mechanical) way of thinking. It assumes the plan is going to yield a pre-determined result. We know this is nonsense. We are managing conformance to a myth. (I'll leave the obvious implication this has about motivation out of this)

In a complex system managers set parameters and the starting conditions then need to have the patience to allow for emergence, positive attributes should be amplified and negative attributes are opportunities for learning and more direct mitigation activity. Managers are focused on assessing the outcome of activity, and allocating resources or changing the constraints to reflect the emergence within the complex system. The system itself is in constant flux and needs constant attention.

Bright young minds filling with old school nonsense.