We live and work at a time of frenetic change. People are called on to keep it together and keep up. Inevitably that’s an expression of hope that they will succeed. Usually I find people do, we are very adaptable creatures.

Organisations are the same only if their DNA evolves. Wealth creation is increasingly a function of keeping up and adapting. Call it innovation if you like.

At times it seems that everything is all about change. Certainly that is too often the case with the bogus use of the word “reform” appearing after any reference to a new law.

Change is fashionable. Fashion is change. People are thrilled by the “new new” thing. It may be mere confection, but it’s new!

In the last year there has been a whirlwind of economic and legislative change. The anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers was noted internationally as the epicentre of the trigger.

Change management as a management concept has come to the fore once more.

"sev_ny_stockexchange"My recollection is that the expression came into general use just after the last major recession in Australia in the period around 1990-1992. It too was accompanied by significant developments in Australia such as an escalation in the reduction of middle management, a further shift towards becoming more of a services economy, and a lurch towards use of IT to resolve more issues.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century we have even bigger inter-connected issues – the plight of American capitalism, the flight of dollars to the old world that now is the new world (East Asia and South Asia), water scarcity and other global resources issues, and of course climate change.

The air is thick with talk about change. In the world of business that involves talking about change management.

In all this a reminder is appropriate on the differences between management and change management.

What is management?

"sev_berlin"For over 20 years, in my legal practice I have integrated know-how from law as well as management (emphasising in particular IT, people, project management and online marketing).

In this approach, in working for clients I find their management needs require introducing or building, maintaining, monitoring and reviewing business systems, functions, processes and competencies.

To take an example, when I’m called on to prepare human resources management contracts, I do more than that. I also provide a set of related people management documents (job descriptions, job design templates, recruitment interview templates etc). Collectively these put in place people systems supported by improved processes and competencies.

What is change management?

Turning to change management, if you like it involves working at the edges of systems, though sometimes root and branch change is needed.

To illustrate, recently I was called on to advise an employee client about his alleged poor performance. He had received a warning letter calling for a meeting.

On examination it became evident that while there were many issues in his job environment and the way it was managed, a key one was a completely inadequate and out-of-date job description for my client. My role then became to advise him on how to negotiate a change to it at his review meeting to get a bit of “bottom up” change management in his workplace.

Effective business management calls for a holistic approach. Only sometimes, or in certain areas does it require a rolling stream of reform or radical change in the way the business is organised.


Photo credits: New York Stock Exchange and Berlin skyline, Copyright © Sevak Dilanchian 2008

Noric Dilanchian