What a mysterious pair of words is ‘change management’! It conjures up all sorts of
images – even actual working titles such as “I am a Change Manager!”
I try not to be facetious when I hear a job described that way, but I must remark: “I hope
so!” The fact of the matter is that we are all change managers. My concern is that some
schools of thought behave as if ‘change’ is a new concept, recently arrived at by today’s
management experts, gurus, professors, etc. Obviously, change has been with us for a long
time: ask the buggy whip makers, black & white TV factories, the radio ham amateurs and,
God bless them, too, the dinosaurs. CCCC states that one is the result of the other, that is,
that management is the result of change or more specifically: “Management is about
solving problems caused by change”. Thus, where there is change you have to have
management to respond. The cave dwellers were change managers; they had to be!
And so are we all.
The latest ‘change stirring’ to cross my desk came from a recent edition of the Harvard
Business Review. It asked a question that invited constructive response. The premise
stated by John Kotter is that today’s organizations are optimized for efficiency rather than
strategic agility. Therefore, today’s companies are poorly equipped to respond to change.
He states that the “structures and organizational processes we have used for decades to
run businesses are no longer up to the task of winning in this faster moving world”. That is,
companies fail to identify difficulties and hazards quickly enough, strategize about them,
and nimbly move to form an appropriate response. This Harvard Business Review article
feeds right into CCCC’s lap.
The first reference in that Harvard paper is made to Daniel Kahneman’s, Thinking Fast and
Slow. A second one suggests a ‘new operating system that continually assesses the
business and reacts with greater agility, speed and creativity’. Both of these ideas have
been staples in the CCCC Management System for the past decade. Let’s talk about them
now and see how they connect.
About a decade ago, CCCC revealed its “Greatest secret in the world”, which, in a nutshell,
is that emotions have far more to do with the human state affairs, for all of us, than does
logic. We were not quite as early as we thought because the 18th century, Scottish
philosopher, David Hume, was there well before us. We attempted to describe this effect
in work modeled after Dr. Kahneman’s concepts, which we called Two Brains, Brain One
(the fast, emotionally responding part of the brain) and Brain Two (the logic processor).
They constantly work against each other and sometimes with each other, the challenge
being to recognize which one at any particular moment might be in control. Ultimately the
task is to have them working together. Unfortunately, that is much more challenging than
it might appear on the surface – which is why we have wars and other world nonsense.
The key for this analogous presentation is that: just as we need Brain One to carry the
biggest share of the mental load, and Brain Two to think more strategically, so a
corporation must be two-brained. Here is how.
The Problem Management Council
We recommend that all companies set up a new, quickly responding corporate entity,
which we happen to call the “Problem Management Council” to run in parallel with the
main business body. We state that the Council should take no more than 2% of the
attention of the company (Brain Two), leaving 98% with the main company operations
. The Council meets once a month to view new problems before the company,
prioritize them, and set out to resolve them. Since, as stated in the second paragraph
above, “Management is about solving problems caused by change” that precise sort of
management is the primary function performed by the Council. The plus is that the
Council is adaptable, quick, logical, and responsive.
The Council has a number of incumbent guidelines to make it run well — too complex to
outline in such a short paper. However, key principles we dare not omit are: (1) The ten or
so committee members should represent every tier in the enterprise from floor worker to
chief of operations, so that decisions reflect input from all levels. (2) Members should have
a term of only six months so the roles do not become mired in stuffiness or false prestige;
rotation also ensures fuller participation, so that many more people in the business feel
they have a stake in the outcome. The resulting buy-in enhances the ability of the Council
to respond beyond rigid traditional barriers, political or otherwise.
Getting on with It
Step A is to decide if your firm would benefit from a parallel entity, that meets at least
monthly, designed to offer quick strategic solutions to large changes. Step B would be to
set up a group to investigate how the Council might be established at your company, to
draw on those who already have done it, or on outside expertise. Step C is to give it a try
to see how it works. Step D is to forever tweak it, to make your Council better and better,
simply put: to make your company better and better.