Sonntag, 1. März 2009

DiaYou: Holger Nauheimer On Change Management

DiaYou is about You, the professional facilitator! The aim is to to bring together all kinds of real life different perspectives on participative procedures.

My third interview features Holger Nauheimer, one of the leading German authorities on Change Management and Facilitation. I met Holger through Procedere, where he contributes his experience, contacts, and the very fact that he is a great source of inspiration and self-reflection to anyone in our field. I think the interview demonstrates this.

Holger Nauheimer has more than twenty years of professional experience as a consultant, trainer and coach for private business, the public sector and non-governmental organizations. An author of many publications, he is particularly known as the creator of the Change Management Toolbook, the leading web resource on the subject, and the author of the Change Management Blog. Holger Nauheimer has worked in more than 50 countries of Europe, North, Central and South America, Africa and Asia, and specializes in the facilitation of personal, team and organizational transformation. He is also the founder of the international Change Facilitation Associates Network and the CEO of Change Facilitation, A Global Partner Who Makes Change Happen in Complex Environments. Holger has become an expert on web-based social network technologies as tools for change facilitation and combines this with face-to-face interventions. I'll have to get back to him about that aspect in the future.

Holger, What I frame as "organizing a dialogue", you describe as "Change Management". What do you mean by that, and what is a practical example?
I must confess that I use the term "Change Management" reluctantly and only as a marketing term. I prefer the term "Change Facilitation" because I deeply believe that transformation of organizations cannot be managed but only facilitated. The aspects of a change process that can actually be managed (e.g., organization of communication campaigns, events, etc.) I would call project management. The complexity of many change processes calls for an approach that respects the emergent character of change. Coming back to your original question, a lot of what we do is actually creating room for dialogue in an attempt to – as Patricia Shaw has coined it – “changing conversations in organizations”. We do that by asking questions and by creating space for people to express their passion and consequently take responsibility for what they care for.
Let me give you a practical example. A large European organization called us in to “train people in Change Management”. The situation was the following: the largest department of the organization was in the process of implementing a new analytical software which would deeply change the way people work. Management felt a strong resistance to the project and they thought that a change management training would change attitudes of their staff. We went in and conducted a round of discussions with different stakeholders and we found out that at the heart of the problem was not the software but the relationship between the staff of that department with other departments of the organization. Simply speaking, people felt not valued. So, the goal of our project shifted towards uplifting the self-esteem and pride of the people in their craft.
We organized a series of workshops based on Appreciative Inquiry and World Café in which went deep down the rabbit hole. People dialogued about what it means to do a good job; they created visions of their future organization etc. All the material that was produced was processed in further workshops, leading to concrete activity plans. At the end, the software had become what it always should have been – a tool to do a better work.

What is the relevance of "process" to your work?
We are generally process oriented (if clients let us be...), i.e. we go into a new assignment suspending our assumptions. Every organization is like a blank page to us. We try to be humble listeners, respecting the experiences and also the emotions of the members of the organization. Once we have gathered enough information for a first hypothesis, we present our ideas to management and listen to their feedback. There is a lot of co-creation at this stage. Based on our hypothesis usually an intervention into the system emerges, such as the workshop approach in the mentioned example. But every process has a goal and we mustn’t loose sight of this!

What is your idea of social or political change, and (how) does it relate to your work?
Let us take a turn in this discussion because my ideas of social and political change have been significantly stirred up in the last two years, after I started to learn more about what is now called social media (i.e. the web based tools and processes often summarized as Web 2.0). What I have observed is that technological change is now much quicker than social change. Web 2.0 offers us to go to scale with change. While the classical “Large System Interventions” such as Open Space Technology, World Café etc. have a physical limit of probably 3-5000 participants (at least at a time), web facilitated change can soon reach half of the entire world population. And if we count mobile web technology in, we will soon be able to interact with the remotest village population. I have learned however, that many change facilitators have not yet fully comprehended the potential of these social media (while the next technological revolution, the semantic web is already knocking at our doors). I am using these technologies to facilitate and sustain change processes in organizations and institutions.
On a more conceptual level, as a system thinker I believe that all political and social change happens – as Bernard Mohr has coined it – “at the speed of imagination”, i.e. if we can anticipate change it is already there. I hope that the work of Otto Scharmer and his Presencing Institute will give us new tools that will help us to see the future as it emerges.
There is more to it. Social and political change has a strong spiritual connotation to me. As Robert Dilts has expressed it in an unprecedented and not repeated way more than 10 years ago, it is about “Creating a World to Which People Want to Belong”. This is exactly the reason why I do my job, and I hope that all I do contributes to Robert’s vision.

What is your definition of an unprofessional facilitator?
I have never thought about that before. What a question! I don’t think that I am the one to answer this question because I observe myself again and again facilitating unprofessionally. Thinking deeper, I remember what I learned from Max Schupbach about non-stationary roles in groups. The role of a facilitator is such a non-stationary role, i.e. it changes during a process. Different people assume the facilitator’s role, unconsciously, for a minute, or an hour, and then it shifts again. Facilitation is more a part of our life and we all have natural facilitation skills. So, you better ask me, what a professional facilitator is, that I know: a professional facilitator is present in a given situation and he uses his presence to bring out the best of individuals, groups and organizations.

What's the relevance of your work to interest and power-based Realpolitik?
Well, I am waiting for the first government to be declared ousted of power by the citizens of a country or a region who instead install their own government. And this is all done by participatory processes facilitated by web-based social networks. The first virtual coup-d’etat so to say. I don’t really believe that the current party based demography will survive the 21st century. Administrations will understand that in future, political processes have to be facilitated.

What's a question you would like to answer on my blog (and what`s the answer)? The question: What’s your short history of everything? How can we as change facilitators understand and change the world? What about us personally, as human beings in change?
The answer: Thanks for asking. Actually, I don’t know; I am still searching (and I will continue). I am happy that the assumption of modernism about the end of history hasn’t really proven right (has it?). For me, it is all about embracing the future (and at the same time conserving all what we love and enjoy). It is about being positive, even in the midst of pain. If we stop being positive, we share the responsibility for the misery of the world. Isn’t it fascinating that cultural pessimism (“früher war alles besser” – “it was all better before”) repeats itself in every generation? I believe we have more control of our lives than any generation before us. Let us trust that our own kids have the same or a higher level of maturity that we assume for ourselves.
So, that’s my philosophy for personal change: Enjoy the change, ride the waves, protect your loved ones but don’t be overprotective, do good to yourself and to the world. Enjoy traditions that survive because they make sense to people. Appreciate that some people are conservative – they take care of good things not being lost. Appreciate that other people are progressive; they bring new ideas to the world. Trust that the person working next to you (whether it is your boss or your report) wants to do a good work as much you want. Use your natural facilitation skills; help your teams to be more productive. Believe in solutions for urgent problems can only be co-created. Learn, not because somebody talks about the need for live long learning but because you enjoy to stretch your mind. Tomorrow will be different, for sure. Assume that 95% of people are good, and the other 5% cannot rule the world if you don’t let them. Be an agent of change.

For a follow-up on his thoughts here, please check out Holger's further reflections on whether we'll still talk about "Change Management" in 10 years.