For years, we’ve had an on-and-off debate with our change colleagues.  [Mostly off, to tell the truth.]

These disagreements center on the nature of change:  Is it linear?  And more, can we superimpose different change frameworks (whether Prosci or Kotter or Bridges or you-fill-in-the-blank) on a human process that, quite frankly, doesn’t always respond to a one-step-at-a-time logic?

Case in point:  One of our clients was incredibly frustrated when a project went AWOL, primarily because executive sponsors had to tend to other burning platforms.   Not ours, obviously.   We went back to start, analyzed, compared it to other shifts in the business, and found that, yes, human ADD simply pushed it away.  Over-multi-tasking was the culprit.

Solving change problems, to us, must consider the human element.  Any number of managers and leaders can nod and give lip service to a specific effort, say, around the supply chain.  The business case, the sense of urgency, the executive sponsors, and the project team might be in play.  But it’s human:  Managers might forget.  Allocate their time elsewhere.  Be called into work on a different initiative.  Or simply resist in a passive-aggressive way, and stymie progress.

Or, another scenario:  Everyone nods, and buys in.  They agree, this IT or HR or cost-saving change must happen for the business to grow.  Change chugs along until – yup – a pocket of the population isn’t motivated or willing to shift attitudes, behaviors, roles, or whatever they’re being asked to do.  Back to the business case, then.

Bottom line:  Thinking linearly doesn’t work for us when driving change.  Sure, frameworks are handy, if only to remind you what needs to be done.  Instead, we prefer moving in a non-straightforward manner, making the connections we need to make at the times we need to make them, and in the ways they need to be made.  Definitely messy, but it works. 

Is this your year to break out and through change?