I used to tell people to archive everything, you’ll need it again in 5 years. Although you won’t be able to use your archived things as they were, mainly because technology will have moved on, in 5 years it will be nice to have to not start from scratch (again).
It was kind of a joke, but kind of not really.
The ‘Centralisation – Decentralisation swing’ used to take 5 years.
‘Centralisation – Decentralisation swing’
Head Office: All the satellite offices are out of control. They all do things differently, so there’s no way we can report consistently and govern them. WE NEED TO CENTRALISE
Centralisation programme ensues.
5 years later.
Satellite offices: We’re different and need special concerns for our local customers, staff, suppliers, legal constraints, etc. The Head Office don’t get it and can’t accommodate our needs. WE NEED TO DECENTRALISE.
Decentralisation programme ensues.
In recent years, I’ve changed my advice to every 3 years. And now, I’m feeling that 3 years might be too long.
Is it just me? Or is everyone experiencing a faster and faster swing? One company had just switched 6 months prior and was contemplating switching back. I got the feeling (in their circumstances) it was more of a distraction discussion than an actual contemplation. Sometimes with Change Management, you have to anticipate, deal with and manage the ‘regret factor’ – they’ve finally committed to the change, done it, and since they haven’t yet seen the benefits, their instinct is to return to the old.
From what I’m experiencing, they are not the only ones having a tighter and tighter swing. And there might be some really good thought-through reasons for it, but just in case I always ask for (and insist where I can with my limited authority as a contractor) for the Business Case calling for yet another swing.
There can be many, genuinely valid reasons to continue with the dance (e.g., customer demands, legislative requirements, new or different corporate strategy, governance/compliance constraints, demographic shifts, etc.). My concern for my clients is that these exist and they are understood. (side note: another piece of advice I often prescribe includes: if you don’t know why you are changing, don’t!)
And then there are even some valid secondary benefits that result from the dance:
- Trim the fat – every time we switch, we find better and leaner ways of working.
- Change maturity / change expertise – every time we switch, we get better and better at change.
- Align to the environment – every time we switch, we get better at attuning to the environment(s) that we work in.
- Promote leadership – every time we switch, we discover new talents and build our own capabilities.
Again, my concern is that the primary reasons are in place and the change isn’t being driven by these secondary outcomes. They can be nice, but are not usually enough to cover the costs – financial, emotional, and psychological – of changing an entire organisation.
Of course, this is all based on my experiences. I recently had a discussion with a Project Manager who said that they’ve never experienced the swing in their organisation and had no idea what I was going on about. I’m pretty sure he was a one-off. But you tell me. How fast is your swing?