Managing and leading people through organisational change – Julie Hodges

Book Review by Ian Pettigrew

 

One-sentence summary: Given that change is ever-increasing and poorly-managed, we need to learn how to manage and lead people through the change and to be really good at understanding and managing the people aspects.

 

Who is this book for? Everybody who is involved in driving organisational change.

 

Overview:

Right from the outset, Hodges positions change as something that we need to be a lot better at; there is an ever-increasing need for change, but we’re not very good at either delivering the desired outcomes or at making change stick. From then on, the book is divided into five parts which explore the building blocks for successful change:

1 – Understanding organisational change: This section explores the landscape for why we need change and includes aspects of strategy, the difference between planned and emergent change (with a nice mention of NHS change day!), a good comparison of models of planned change (including Kotter, Kanter, Luecke), an exploration of Theory E (change driven by economic/shareholder value) versus Theory O (change driven by people), and a case study of an organisation who saw things coming but still didn’t adapt (Kodak).

2 – Individual responses to change: An exploration of emotions at work, culture, emotional contagion, EI, mindfulness, transition models (with a proposed alternative to Kubler-Ross/Bridges), energy, motivation to change, the psychological contract, and trust.

3 – The role of leaders and managers: A detailed exploration of approaches to leadership and management and how to best engage people before, during, and after a change initiative. In addition to material on how change is mismanaged, stakeholder management, negotiation and conflict, I was delighted to read the section on the impact of change on health and wellbeing (including the impact of change fatigue). This section also explores how to drive sustainable culture change, and addresses communication and dialogue (including using social media), and Schein’s model of organisational culture in addition to using the cultural web as a diagnostic.

4 – Building capabilities: What skills and capabilities are needed to drive sustainable change and what is the role of HR in all this? There’s a section on managing performance which, personally, I would have liked to seen expanded as this is an area where I see lots of organisations struggling. There’s also a helpful chapter on organisational learning and building change capability across the organisation.

5 – Ethics, sustainability, and change: On how to make sure that change is ethically driven (considering the interests of the people in the organisation) and lastly, that change is sustainable.

 

Would I recommend the book?

To disclose my own bias here; I’ve been a Change Director in a large organisation and it was probably the hardest job I’ve done. I believe change can be ‘done’ well but I get very frustrated when I see HR functions proposing (and being complicit in) restructures as THE way of delivering change. A simple redrawing of reporting lines and a few changes of staff very rarely addresses what actually needs to be addressed, and I’ve seen organisations get into a cycle of regular restructures that create the illusion of progress whilst actually making things worse by losing talented people and introducing change fatigue.

Rant over, I hope that lots and lots of people read this book as it will help people to drive real change that puts people at the heart of the change and addresses what needs to be addressed. It is a very well-researched book; it is well-referenced which immediately signposts further reading for those who want to dig deeper, and each chapter also has recommendations for further reading. It felt both academic and practical and I was pleased to see a variety of case studies used, not just the usual suspects. The book opens with a clear statement of its intended audience and learning outcomes, and I believe that it delivers. It also does so without, as far as I recall, a single mention of VUCA which I believe we often use as lazy shorthand for difficult challenges.

Last time somebody starting a new role in change asked me for book recommendations, I recommended The End of Competitive Advantage by Rita McGrath, Leading Change by John Kotter, Business Model Generation by Alex Ostwerwalder, and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. From now on, I’d recommend Managing and Leading People through Organisational Change by Julie Hodges instead of Kotter. I hope lots of people read it and apply what they learn. Recommended.

 

(This book review first appeared in The HR Director, for whom I regularly review books)