Driving The Change… Driving Me Mad!

Interview with Siobhain Smiton

You are talking about change management in your DisruptHR talk. An exciting time to look back. What do you think about it today - at a time when change is the only continuity?

My thoughts on change management focus mainly on the starting point of purpose:  who are we and what are we here to do now? 

The purpose of an organisation can change based on what the context requires and will likely change in the future given that context changes. 

From a leadership point of view, there is often the need to learn the difficult capacity to betray – to have led people in a particular direction and then to change that direction. It can be experienced as a betrayal and it is a difficult but I believe necessary capability for leaders to develop. 

When it comes to acquisition and merger situations, it will nearly always feel like a takeover and the importance is in identifying what needs to change and what needs to be preserved in order to realise the value of the acquisition / merger rather than eroding that very value.

We pay so much attention to structure and put away the messy part of emotions.

We like this quote so much. Based on that, you state that a change project can be started on the base instead of top down. 

How does that work in daily business?

There are a couple of elements to pay attention to when managing change. The starting point I believe is context – what is happening in the broader context of the organisation and beyond and how does that relate to the change? 

Further elements which require attention are on the individual and collective dimensions:  individual mental maps, values and aspirations as well as knowledge, skills and behaviours. 

On the collective side, attention needs to be paid to shared beliefs and assumptions, unwritten rules, informal systems as well as structures, policies, formal systems

Would it make sense to start a change management project with team meetings, conversations and surveys with the employees instead of endless pages of concepts and strategic work?

It is probably a two-pronged approach where the external context is paid attention to as it often fuels the need for change, and the experience of the people doing the work both shapes and tests the effects of the changes. 

I would also add that the way the work is approached needs to be in tune with what the purpose or the evolving purpose of the organisation is and that the dsyfunctions that occur often give very important clues to the anxiety inherent in that work.

About Siobhain Smiton

Siobhain grew up in England with a difficult-to-pronounce Irish name. This experience left Siobhain with a lifelong interest and attention to words, meaning and belonging, specifically in our lives at work. 

Siobhain works as an independent executive coach and organisational consultant. 

About DisruptHR

"Teach us something but do it quick" - DisruptHR presents inspiring speakers worldwide who question the status quo and look to the future with their ideas. 

SPOT ON organizes this exciting format in Zurich and brings HR enthusiasts together.


Siobhain Smiton

Founder & Consultant bei Smiton Consulting & Coach bei Systems-Psychodynamic Consultants Network

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