Book review – Making sense of change management: A complete guide to the models, tools and techniques of organisational change by Esther Cameron and Mike Green

Posted on: January 15, 2017
Change management and organisational change

I’ve reviewed many books on change management (see the related blogs list below) but this one is a sure-fire winner if it’s a major area of interest to you. There are 450 pages of counselling, occupational psychology, consulting, organisational development, leadership and change management theories and tools – it’s a fantastic reference.

Like much of the training I provide in this area, it looks in detail at change management at individual, team and organisational levels and how they interact. And it also, again reflecting much of the training I have done over the years, looks at the challenge between rational task and emotional people factors. There’s a lot of psychology in the book – probably more than the extensive management theory covered.

The book is arranged in three parts. The first part contains lots of theories, models and tools on change management. The second part looks at specific types of change management challenge – restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, cultural change and IT-based process change. The third explores the emerging areas of complex change and uncertainty.

Change in individuals, teams and organisations

The book starts with individual and internal change. And it is almost like a counselling text – summarising the behavioural, psychodynamic, humanistic and cognitive schools of psychology and their perspective on change. It includes learning theory such as Kolb  http://www.kimtasso.com/improve-learning-effectiveness-using-kolbs-learning-styles/ and motivation http://www.kimtasso.com/faq/how-do-you-increase-motivation-for-marketing-and-business-development/ and personal change cycles.

There’s an interesting exploration of when a group becomes a team, different types of teams and how to make teams effective. Various organisational metaphors are explored – and how different models apply to them and the implications for change management.

Leading change and change agents

Different styles of leadership are considered in the context of the various metaphors for organisations. Visionary, transformational, adaptive, connective and dispersed leadership models are explored as well as four key roles for successful change. There’s some interesting material on qualities needed by leaders – especially emotional intelligence http://www.kimtasso.com/book-review-emotional-intelligence-2-0-travis-bradberry-jean-greaves/

Change agents in leadership, management, consultancy and team models are considered and then there’s some excellent material (including Block’s “Flawless Consulting”) on the consultancy process and skills. Change agent competencies are examined. Further tools to promote individual, team and organisational change (including the change kaleidoscope) are explained along with a consideration of different organisation cultures. There’s also some fascinating psychological insights on the deeper aspects of being a change agent and the skills required to create a safe, holding environment.

Restructuring

The second part of the book on Applications starts with a great quote on strategy – “Strategy is the pattern or plan that integrates an organisation’s major goals, policies and action sequences into a cohesive whole” (James Quinn). Then two strategic change processes are explored – one is linear and the other more iterative.

The authors mention a CIPD survey which found that during the 1990s the top 50 UK companies moved from having on average one major reorganisation every five years to having one every three years. They then explore the various reasons for restructuring. It compares the merits of different organisational structures (entrepreneurial, functional, divisional and matrix) and considers the risks in change management. There is a sensitive and pragmatic section on redundancy (Noer’s model) and a four stage team alignment model.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A)

The context for M&A  is set with an analysis of the six waves of merger and acquisition activity. Different types of merger (vertical, horizontal and conglomerate) and reasons for merger (growth, synergy, diversification, integration, defensive and deal doing) are described.

Research into successful and unsuccessful mergers suggests that they should be seen as a way to create shareholder value through customers and should therefore start with an analysis of customer profitability. There are case studies for a steel making company and GE’s Pathfinder model is described.

There are five key learning points for successful mergers – and communication figures first on the list. There’s an interesting statistic about how productivity falls from 5-7 hours to less than an hour a day when a change of control takes place. Pointers on tackling cultural integration are helpful and there’s a helpful grid using Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner http://www.kimtasso.com/cross-cultural-communication/ .

Cultural change

This section starts with definitions of corporate culture and an examination of how it is formed. There are case studies for a local authority, rebranding in a financial services organisation and creating an employer brand for a global spirits and wine business.

IT-based process change

There are useful tools here for considering strategic IT projects and the role of IT management and the required competencies. It makes a strong case for IT change managers and returns to the role of consultants as experts, extra pair of hands and collaborators. It scratches the surface of Business Process Reengineering (BPR), socio-technical design (balancing the strategic vision, the technology and task and the needs of staff) and PROGRESS methodology for process change management.

Emerging enquiries in change management

The third part of the book looks at complex change and leading change in uncertain times. It skims over cognitive psychology ideas for complex adaptive systems with multiple interconnected elements such as stock markets and the brain. It considers the transition from a traditional to an emerging world view, self-organisation, chaos theory (attractors) and paradoxes.

The suggestions for dealing with these mind-boggling situations include storytelling, dialogue, whole system work, open space technology, future search (three day meetings) and world cafes. There’s an interesting exploration of decisiveness and dithering in leadership. KPMG’s Flexible Futures approach to changing the terms and conditions of staff employment contracts features briefly.

My conclusion

As I said at the start of this review, it’s a great reference book and I am sure that I will dip into it regularly. MBA students and consultants will find it really useful having so many disparate theories, tools and frameworks of value to change management programmes bought together in one place. And each chapter has a beautifully concise summary which highlights the key points.

However, if you do not have a major focus on change management or are more interested in practical examples then you may find it contains far too many outlines of theories and frameworks which lack detailed explanation and direction on when and how to use them.

I was surprised that there wasn’t material on the impact of generational issues on the change process. The only other missing bits I suppose are the specific practical and implementation areas of project management and internal communications. There could also, I suspect, be more material on how to measure the efficiency and impact of change programmes.

Contents

Introduction

PART ONE – UNDERPINNING THEORY

1. Individual change

2. Team change

3. Organisational change

4. Leading change

5. The change agent

PART TWO – THE APPLICATIONS

6.  Restructuring

7. Mergers and acquisitions

8. Cultural change

9. IT-based process change

PART THREE – EMERGING ENQUIRIES

10. Complex change

11. Leading change in uncertain times

Related blogs on change management:

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