Change Management Toolbook

Skate where the Organizational Change Puck will be

Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.
– Wayne Gretsky

This article is aimed specifically at organizational change practitioners. By using the ice hockey metaphor I point out where our profession should be today, and the direction the puck will be heading tomorrow. Organizational change practitioners cannot expect everybody else to adapt to the digital economy and at the same time work with outdated tools, techniques and perspectives. We need to be the change we want to see in the world – and frankly: we suck at it.

When we look at how the digital economy is shifting the world of work it is strange to see that the profession of Organizational Change Management has not evolved since the past 30 years or so.

My suggestion is to look for where our skills will be needed today and tomorrow.

Change Management: a Definition

First things first: what are we talking about when say ‘organizational change management’? The way I see it, our work comes down to the management of 4 elements that are important during a transition; four ‘containers’ if you will. They are: Communication, Learning, Organization and Performance. Have a look at the below video to see what’s inside each of these containers.

Each container represents a specific need that people have during a change.

  • Communication: people need an identity to hang onto so they can see what is in it for them. Constructing an identity for your project is necessary in order to provide an answer to the question “What’s In It For Me?”.
  • Learning: People need to know what is expected of them in terms of attitude, knowledge and skills. A part of this is provided in the form of classroom-trainings (the know-how), but the largest part of the knowledge transfer will take place in practice, during the testing phase and the phase of problem-solving. That is why the learning work is never restricted to the classroom and – most of all – we need to carefully build a network of local ambassadors for the project.
  • Organization: this is the need to know “Who does what?”. This means that the setup of the future roles and responsibilities needs to be clarified upfront. Next, the support structure in the long run needs to be setup, i.e.: the community of ambassadors who will be responsible for the sustainability of the solution.
  • Performance: Finally, people need to know what exactly will change in practice and how this will affect their working habits and usage of time. This includes a detailed follow-up of the chronology of tasks and the creation of a uniform procedure that is shared among all departments.

So if we are going to skate where the puck of organizational change is going to be, we first need to acknowledge that an organizational change manager needs to master all four containers at the same time, because eventually they integrate into one single result, i.e.: ownership and accountability over the future situation.


Now here is the thing: when the digital economy is changing the laws of gravity for business, there is no way organizational change practitioners can stand aside and pretend that their methods and tools should not be reviewed. What’s more: social media are specifically affecting the core of our business. In other words: the anatomy remains the same, but the focus needs a radical change.

I am convinced of the need to upgrade our organizations to a social architecture. To the same extent and with a slightly higher sense of urgency, I am calling organizational change practitioners to action. I’m on a mission to change organizational change management. We desperately need to upgrade the way we do our work.

With the manifesto of Social Architecture in the back of my mind, this is how each of the change management work-streams will need to shift: the skaters remain the same, but the game is being played on a different level. We need a different puck. Have a look at the below drawing to see what an upgraded puck looks like.
The puck of OCM
On the left-hand side of the drawing above, you can see what organizational change management meant before the digital economy got any traction:

  • Communication: broadcast your messages to stakeholders (‘Message & Audience’)
  • Learning: manage the curriculum (‘Content & Collection’)
  • Organization: top-down (‘Hierarchy & Position’)
  • Performance: push harder (‘Control & Compliance’)

As we are witnessing the end of the Industrial Revolution, we discover that leadership and workplace dynamics are no longer hierarchical. That game is over. Compliance is no longer the shortest path to productivity. Relationships are no longer hierarchical, they have become tribal. This means that the upgraded puck of Organizational Change looks like this:

  • Communication: listen and trust the process (‘Story & Community’)
  • Learning: learning is in the network (‘Context & Connection’)
  • Organization: become a platform for change (‘Social Architecture & Roles’)
  • Performance: balance push and pull (‘Trust & Co-creation’)

Finally, let’s take this metaphor one step further and see if we can answer the initial question: where is the puck of our profession, and where is it going to be?

Social Media: Where the Puck is Right Now

Like it or not, the internet has shifted the ownership of a brand to the customers. Your customers own your brand by advocating or disliking it. And they do it in public. Therefore, when consumers own your brand, productivity depends on your ability to include customers into the story and ownership of your product.

Customer Relationship Management has never been about customers or relationships. It has been about systems and about ‘management’ in the narrow sense; i.e.: making sure that customers fit into, and behave according to a certain script.

The next thing you know is that social networks have become immensely popular and all of a sudden organizations want to be present and popular on that level as well. But it’s a Trojan horse, because customers now have the means to hack the call-center scripts and ‘gate-jump’ to a different game-level: The Facebook-pages and all other means of ‘presence’ of an organization are embedded with a dialogue function by default. Broadcasting without listening is not an option anymore.

On a side note: some of you may remember the video of Michael Hammer where he announced that ERP platforms like SAP were the Trojan horse for bringing down silos on the inside of an organization. It all starts with the implementation of innocent software. The next thing you know is that business processes are re-engineered from end-to-end and organizations start working in a completely different way.

In the same way as ERP implementations are the Trojan Horse for business process re-engineering, social networks are the Trojan horse for bringing down silos between marketing, communication and customer service. Customers are slapping companies in the face(book).
Ice hockey field
Only those companies who are prepared to bring down the walls between customer care, marketing and communications will prosper. This is where we – as organizational change practitioners should be today. That’s right: not in the ivory tower of HR/OD, but in the trenches with the call center agents trying to figure out what works in relationship building with customers.

Social Architecture: Where the Puck is Going to be

The same logic applies to internal projects: ownership demands for inclusion of employees into the creative process. The bringing down of silos will not be limited to marketing, communications or customer service. Soon we will witness HR, Operations and IT bringing down their walls. Trojan horses are surfacing here and there. These are exciting times. Internal social networks such as Yammer and Rypple are spreading like a (healthy) virus. This is where the puck is going to be. Small projects and initiatives are fueled by co-creation and influence. Organizations need us – Organizational Change Practitioners – to stand by their side when they make this transition.

Social Architecture is not only an upgrade for our organizations. It brings with it an upgrade for Organizational Change Management. The question is: where will you be skating?

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