How not to manage change

There currently is no better lab on change-management than the polity of the United States of America under new President Donald Trump. At the Effectiveness lab, we have watched happenings in America over the last two weeks – and it is not far fetched to write on this blog, always and still apolitical, that they come with an aura of mystery.

Managing the travel ban - lessons for the neutral Credi: Gettyimages

Managing the travel ban – lessons for the neutral
Credit: Getty Images

Management, politics, and leadership professors have been provided with case material for under and post-grad. classes. Curious students of management and leadership, have interesting takeaways from the 24/7 management-lab in Washington.

Indeed, President Trump was elected on an anti-establishment ticket and promised to turn on its head, the manner business is done in Washington. Monsieur Trump has been faithful to not only his campaign promises but also persona. He is bringing change to Washington and indeed the world of politics

Trump does things his own way – and he has, thus far, chosen to manage change in the true Trump philosophy. Not only is he anti-establishment when it comes to Washington and its politics, but also, Trump is every day throwing out standard knowledge on management and leadership; knowledge that has been taught at colleges for centuries.

So, Trump is not only challenging the manner politics is done but also management and leadership teaching doctrine at Ivy universities. It is not far fetched to write that Trump is attempting to change doctrine on change-management.

Yet, it will take Trump more than using executive orders to alter doctrine that has stood the test of time. It may not be that simple after all.

The power of knowledge

We obtain knowledge through study, observation, and experience – knowledge formation takes not one year but in some instances hundreds of years. There is a body of knowledge about change management that has been studied, observed, and tested for hundreds of years

The ‘whole of a particular domain of knowledge is greater than the sum of its parts.’ Successful change management is done in a certain way. Before embarking on a specific agenda to modify the latter, there are critical success factors to consider:

  • Careful stakeholder mapping and interest-analysis needs to be done
  • Allies and resistors need identifying, isolating and the underlying reasons behind their positions understood
  • Craft strategies to maximize the thrust gained from the support by the allies, and to pacify the resistors
  • Allow enough time to implement resistor-pacification strategies – even if it means creating or taking advantage of a crisis i.e. unpopular change is often carried out during a period of crisis that brings both resistors and allies on the same table

Bottom line, change management is an art and has to be managed as such. It can be equated to the art of war that calls for technical mastery of combat.

The cost of disregarding domains of knowledge

While it is right to question existing domains of knowledge and create news ones, a total disregard of knowledge domains is not good practice. What we have witnessed in America over the last two weeks is a near disregard of established and tested change-management knowledge domains – it is: ‘either the way of the new White House team or the highway.’

President Trump is an accomplished businessman. A businessman molded in the real estate industry. Apparently, real estate business and its moguls have a particular way of running the business. Real estate boasts a knowledge domain that is unique to the industry – see caption below on real estate behavior:

……Aggressive competitive behavior between agents – they may well work for the same company, but agents are cut-throat, dog-eat-dog individuals who are only after their own needs. This is a major source of missed productive opportunity as new agents are ostracized rather than being supportive and collegial.

May the above explain the attempts by the new administration to disregard orthodox and tested knowledge? After all, that cut-throat approach has begotten the President success and admiration

Checks & balances vs. attempts to destroy established knowledge domains

It is near impossible to conduct a successful annihilation of knowledge. Knowledge, because of the length of time and rigor that is invested in creating it, is near impossible to destroy. Successful knowledge change is an organic, stakeholder-respecting, win-win, and evidence-driven process. Implied in the ‘change-management’ knowledge domain, are checks and balances that have stopped in its tracks (at least for now), a change management process that has been described by some as new, odd, unorthodox, or even unAmerican.

Checks and Balances have manifested at:

  1. The Institutional level – the court system in America, has stopped a powerful force that is pushing to change the status quo and re-write aspects of the change management knowledge domain. Specifically, today, a federal appeals court has denied the US government’s request to resume the travel ban that was ordered by the President last week.
  2. The citizen level – public demonstrations have given the pulse on the opinion of a section of the American people re.: the travel ban. Directly or indirectly, such a show of force is bound to influence thinking of those making decisions on the matter

The day knowledge won

If the new Administration had followed conservative change-management principles, we are confident that the travel ban, would stand in some form. We should tread carefully when we decide to discredit known domains of knowledge

Categories: You, the Leader!

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