Change Management doesn’t change the one thing you most need to change

High Performance Change says: If you wanted to drive across Australia, you’d pack the vehicle with a survival kit – to help you adapt to any situation you might find yourself in – before you departed. It would be utter madness to even think about just setting off as if it were a normal trip, armed only with the idea of dealing with stuff as it happens along the way. And yet, if the only way you’re preparing your people for change is the Change Management (CM) of projects, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Improve your adaptability intelligence

That’s because, by design, CM only starts to prepare people for change once the change is happening. And that’s a problem because, in my experience, most people – including leaders – don’t exactly love change. Projects nearly always suffer delays because people have chained themselves to the railings of the status quo. But there’s another big problem with CM too. It’s really good at changing what people do, but really rubbish at changing their attitude to change. CM is process change, not behavioural change – which would take too long and isn’t in scope anyway.

So am I saying that CM is no more than the Emperor’s new suit, of no more use than a chocolate teapot? Absolutely not. CM is a proven way of improving project delivery – and that's a process worth having because, after all, projects do the organisation’s most risky, expensive and disruptive heavy lifting. Using CM isn’t madness – far from it. What is madness is understanding that people naturally resist change, and then only tackling that one project at a time, time after time, with a process that you know rarely makes any longterm difference to their attitude to change (you know that because you’ve rarely seen it happen). That’s Einstein’s definition of madness right there.

But if you pack the minds of your people with the adaptability survival kit of curiosity, courage and a sense of urgency before you set them off on your next project adventure, they'll be a hell of a lot easier to change-manage. Not only will it make the project go more quickly and completely, but people will feel less coerced and more engaged, because they’re more open to the idea of change.

Unless you’re running ye olde artisanal windmill and bakery, the chances are your organisation is going to face more change not less, and needs to develop its adaptability.

CM will not help you.

Don't be lulled into thinking that well-executed projects are a sign of an adaptable workforce. People comply with change for all sorts of negative reasons that have nothing to do with a positive attitude to change.

The good news is that you can raise your Adaptability Intelligence. But rather than trying to do this as an appendix of running a project, it deserves to be a project in its own right. What strategic initiative could be more important than giving your people a mindset that makes them more open to embracing every other initiative on your strategic to do list?

But perhaps the best way to approach it is this: Think about the combined effort of all your people; what they’re achieving; what’s holding them back; and what lies ahead. And now imagine what they could achieve if they were more adaptable – even just a little bit more curious, more courageous and more urgent about change.

How much do you think that’s worth to the delivery of your strategy and the health of your culture?

I'm an Adaptability Intelligence specialist, so if you’d like to address the one area that Change Management doesn't improve, visit

Looking for something specific?