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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 26-Aug-11


Friday 26-August-11

Change frustrations

A friend told me a story recently about his frustration at the managing board of the company where he was working. He had been given a change project to manage that required additional activities across the business. When he started work with the directors, a number of them expressed support for the idea but their response when asked to engage with the work was lukewarm at best.

This is a classic change dilemma, where the change manager is given a mandate for which there is little real support, despite apparent enthusiasm for the work. In good change-management style, my friend escalated the issue through the programme manager to the change board, but guess who sat on the board? That's right -- the directors. A further problem was that the programme manager worked for the infrastructure director who ran the programme board but who did not have the organisational position to mandate compliance by the other directors. Oh yes, and the Chief Executive was not at these meetings, working with directors only in the 'business as usual' board meetings.

The underlying problem, then was structural, with a lack of leadership and clear authority. With a managing board that could not or would not agree and govern a specific mandate, the governing meeting became a talking shop in which it was agreed that certain actions were a good idea, whilst individual directors privately decided whether or not to do anything about it. The programme manager had written up the discussions as if they were decisions and handed them to the project manager who started out with enthusiasm but soon found little real support from the directors who resisted local change by inviting the project manager to make a presentation to their management team and then asking their team for 'opinions' rather than giving strong support and asking their team how things can be implemented.

This is a typical change-management dilemma in which there are things that should happen but do not. The change manager thus has to cope. If you are faced with such a situation, two dimensions in which you can work are influential and pragmatic. Influentially, you can lobby, build allies and generally work to get support as and when you can. Pragmatically, it is sometimes easier to get forgiveness than permission. And so my friend struggled on, not achieving as much as he might, but at least making a difference and earning his crust. .

Your comments

Oh my gosh, this sounds soooo complicated! And definitely frustrating. I can only imagine what your friend experienced while working within such structural constraints. I?ve never been on a management team, so I have absolutely no idea what it?s like?and I feel this to be a valuable piece of information that I will take as advice just in case I find myself in a similar dilemma in the future. And kudos to your friend for working through it and earning his bread!:)

-- greengummibear

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