Manager to Architect – all change?

One of my areas of interest is Change Management. This is the familiar name given to the process in organisations for some fundamental systemic change (introducing a new IT system, for example).

Commentators reckon that 80% of change projects fail to achieve everything they set out to achieve – and they usually blame human factors. Often it is the victims (and I use the word deliberately) of the project who sabotage it. More often it is the lack of understanding of human behaviour by the project sponsors which scuppers things.

Here’s a thought.

Instead of using the word ‘manager’ and ‘management’ in the context of change, why not take a leaf from the science of behavioural economics and call ourselves ‘Change Architects?’

Okay, it has a ring of pretension. Change Architect? Moi?

But, I argue, it has merit. For a start it creates a perception of greater interaction in the process without losing the idea that there is captain on the bridge who has set a course and has a compass.

A Change Architect creates the behavioural framework that nudges us into making correct decisions in line with desired outcomes. S/he doesn’t create and manage the means to the end but rather goes with the grain of our behavioural preferences – knowing that we will tend to behave in certain ways in certain contexts.

As humans, we take short-cuts all the time in our thinking, choices and decisions. We think we are super-rational – a bias reinforced by our education and work experiences. Any understanding of how the human brain works will show that much of our mental processing is done at a non-conscious level. If we want to buy a sandwich at Greggs, we do not create a mental spreadsheet, itemise all the criteria we might apply, then score accordingly. We usually wonder: “What do I fancy today?” Our choice may be influenced by what we had yesterday. In the end, we’ll probably choose the sandwich on the shelf at our eye-level, as long as it meets criteria we’re probably not even vaguely aware of.

The Change Architect makes it easy for us to make the decisions and choices necessary for us to change our behaviour and for the desired outcomes to be achieved, AND with a greatly reduced consumption of scarce resources.

The UK Government has latched on to behavioural economics and has set up the Behavioural Insight Team to help achieve more (behavioural change) with less (people and money).

Whilst I’m not a fan of the Coalition in many respects, I do welcome their willingness to embrace new ideas. My big criticism of the previous Labour Government was that it was overly-prescriptive, creating a massive bureaucracy to build and run an incredibly intricate and complicated machinery to achieve its outcomes. It turned us all into bureaucrats and the bureaucrats into prison camp commandants.

I’ll post more on the insights of behavioural economics over the next few weeks.

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