A new blog: Living with perpetual change

Mountain near Cannobio, Lago Maggiore, Italy

My name is Frank Smits. After my industry career with Exxon Chemical, I have worked for over 20 years as a business change, leadership and transformation consultant. I started in 1996 with PricewaterhouseCoopers, then with the specialised change consultancy Partners for Change Ltd and since 2002 as an independent management consultant via my own business. In the year 2000 participated in the inception of the Center for Self-organizing Leadership , based in the US, of which I am a Charter Member. It focuses on helping leaders with new ways of looking at organisations.
Working as a business change and transformation consultant involves engagement with clients from many different types of industry, and at many different hierarchical levels in the clients’ companies. My clients range from Oil & Gas companies, like BP and Centrica, to the packaging company DS Smith and the Lloyd’s insurance market. Because of the nature of today’s businesses, the programmes I work on are multi-national in nature. With their different cultural and language challenges. Not surprisingly, the issues that clients struggle with range widely. From large scale operating model transformation initiatives, to –for instance- engagement of German workers’ councils in global HR systems implementations. And all imaginable flavours in between.

There an overarching challenge, though, that seems to be common amongst the business leaders and participants in those engagements: there is a feeling of perpetual change, continuously disrupting the day-to-day work, that we have been hired to do.
There are a multitude symptoms that are caused by this inherent challenge. For instance, we seem to be in meetings all day long. How do we get ‘real things’ done? Only in the after-hours?
Also, we seem to be seeking ways to more effectively deal with these continuous changes.
There is a high dependency on external parties (outsourcing partners, consultants, contractors, and so on) to deliver both the day-to-day work and those continuous changes. To the extent that it if difficult to determine where one company finishes and the other starts.
Or where what knowledge is owned and maintained? What risk does that import for our businesses? And, how can we manage that?
We also feel that we have only limited control over the future direction of our company or our function, and our business and project plans.
We discover that the normal business language we are using is insufficient to describe this continuously changing situation. There are no nice, linear business processes for ‘continuous change’.
And it is difficult to organise ourselves coherently in these ever-changing environments, causing ever-increasing levels of confusion and even discontent.

My experience is that a very useful way to address these challenges is get people from various, different, backgrounds to discuss this from their diverse angles. But my experience is also that usually we talk to those very similar to ourselves. This blog is intended therefore for a variety of people: managers, consultants, thought-leaders, change agents, anyone who recognises these symptoms and challenges. It aims to create an extended community where we can jointly explore what these challenges mean for us. To learn together from each other’s experiences, laced with practical examples from the front line. Real stuff. “Where the rubber hits the road”, so to say.
Starting in the next posting, I will offer stories from my experience. Of practices that worked, and those that perhaps did not. To see how they resonate with others. I am inviting others to share their experiences to address these themes.

Do you recognise the symptoms in this posting? What are some challenges that you run into? And how do you deal with them?