In a workshop in Berlin last week, I asked the delegates to come up with one piece of advice that they would pass on to someone trying to bring about a sustainable change? With a quick glance around the room I estimated that there must have been at least four hundred years of experience among them.


The delegates, about thirty in number,  were mostly business process experts and while one half of the room were tackling the positive question of giving advice, I asked the other half to come up with a list of the challenges that they, and their teams, would likely face on a business process change project. 


The lesson of the exercise, for me, was not necessarily the tips themselves but the demonstration that experienced people, when approached correctly, hold (if not all the answers) then at least most of the wisdom needed to roll out successful projects. In these exercises I want to compare negative thinking with positive thinking and compare the two. In this way nothing gets over-looked. And the results this time around were no different.


The problems I see are that often our company structures do not allow, or even encourage, real learning from the past to improve the way we do things.  In a way, it’s as if we all know what is needed but choose either to ignore it, or at least accept that it is normal ‘in our company’.


There’s no one to blame, no one to point a finger at but when I see how smoothly projects can go when they have a top class change manager working within them, then obviously it saddens me when I have to witness unnecessary stress and failure. Some project managers have a natural affinity towards change management but in reality, on large or complex projects it is hard for one person to handle both task oriented planning and people management while at the same time doing the soft stuff on communication and preparing the organization to make the most of the deliverable that the project team will bring.  


A conversation with a young entrepreneur earlier in the week, reminded me of why us humans do not evolve as far and as fast as we should.  Every generation needs to learn from their own mistakes. What they are taught in school and from their parents is only theory. Until they have experienced it for themselves, only then can they decide which rules to apply and which to ignore.  Perhaps this is also true when passing on knowledge from one project team to another?


Have a good week,