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An exciting journey!

19th November 2014 | Richard Smith

An interview with Richard Smith, Lead Editor and Contributor of The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook

Q: How did you come to edit a book like this?

A: At the beginning of 2013 I was preparing to relaunch my consulting practice following a period of illness. I had for several years been a member of the Change Management examination panel for The APM Group International (APMG), and had recently taken on the role of Chief Examiner. APMG is a leading accreditation body - they accredit professionals in a range of disciplines, and organisations, too. Conversations between APMG and the Change Management Institute – the global professional association for Change Managers – led to an opportunity to transform the landscape of Change Management. Together with other members of my examination panel, I accepted what would prove to be an exciting challenge!

Q: You talk about ‘transforming the landscape of Change Management’. What do you mean by this?

A: The relatively low success rate of organizational change initiatives – a 70% failure rate is often quoted – has led to the growth across industries of demand for people with strong change management expertise. Organizational Development professionals, Project Managers, Programme managers and many general managers have all claimed such expertise – but there has never been a standard against which to judge. The opportunity to forge a partnership between APMG, a global accrediting body, and CMI seemed an opportunity to build a genuine international standard.

Q: Tell us more about the CMI and their involvement.

A: The Change Management Institute formed in Australia around 2005 as a genuinely independent professional association for Change Managers. I discovered that as far back as 2008 the CMI had published a robust competence model for change managers. It had been researched with their 600-strong membership across 30 countries, and they had updated it in 2010 and 2012. CMI were interested in developing a Change Management ‘body of knowledge’ and APMG were keen to see such a global standard developed.

Q: What do you mean – a ‘body of knowledge’?

A: A body of knowledge is a document produced by a professional association which describes and defines the knowledge required to underpin effective practice in that profession. My colleagues and I worked with the CMI to tease out the underpinning knowledge required to display their competences across a range of organizational situations. The knowledge architecture we found was checked with senior Change professionals in the CMI. We then set about writing the ‘descriptions and definitions’ I talked about.

Q: This all sounds a bit dry.

A: Bodies of knowledge (“BoKs” in the jargon) can be. However my co-authors and I were determined to write this in an accessible style, so that it could be a really usable document. The feedback to date has been positive in that regard, both from individual professionals using the CMBoK to focus and refresh different areas of their practice and from organizations. One large financial institution immediately bought 100 copies and adopted the book as the basis for selection and development of its internal change management community.

Q: So the body of knowledge was published?

A: Yes. CMI launched it at their conference in October 2013. It was published under the title The Effective Change Manager.

Q: And now we have The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook.

A: Having researched and written the body of knowledge in 9 months, including two rounds of review and feedback from change managers around the world, my colleagues and I felt ready to stop and ‘take a breather’. But then we faced a new challenge. If we were to align the syllabus of the APMG Change Management qualification with the now widely-agreed change management body of knowledge we needed an examinable text. A body of knowledge describes and defines knowledge but it doesn’t attempt to teach it. We needed a new text which was also fully aligned to that body of knowledge. Actually that explains the title we chose for the new Kogan Page book. We wanted to honour the pedigree – the solid foundations on which we were building the Handbook.

Q: So how did you get from ‘BoK’ to book?

A: APMG and CMI were very supportive, and I was able to find a wonderful team of authors whose specialist interests span the many facets of change management. They have been generous with their expertise and with the constraints of writing a multi-contributor book. They have met all the deadlines I’ve had to ask of them, and been gracious when the external reviewers or editors asked for changes to their work. Together we’ve produced what I think is a landmark book.

Q: I can tell you’re proud of it – but aren’t you overstating this a bit?

A: You’re right – I am proud of it and of the team who have made it happen. And I do see it as a landmark – and quite unique as far as I’m aware. There are so many change management books, but each tends to have a limited scope. Kotter’s Leading Change is a classic, and deserves its wide readership – in my view it’s required reading for change professionals – but it focuses on one particular line of research. The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook teaches the full scope of professional knowledge now defined by the CMI’s body of knowledge. But it goes further than that; it not only teaches the full scope of the body of knowledge, but applies it. It is illustrated with real organizational examples, and includes many examples of checklists, tools and templates that change managers can use or adapt to help them in facing the challenges of their own work. It is a professional handbook as well as a respectable textbook. It has been an exciting journey, working with wonderful change professionals from around the world. The whole editorial team and I are delighted with the result.

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