Change Management on a Millennial Scale

Author: Josh Keegan - Owner and Director


It occurred to me lately that for true Change Management to happen people must die. 

Whilst this first sentence may have lost a few people and picked up a few other types, I would like to attempt to justify the statement.

At the best of times Change Management is a difficult and erroneous task where strategies and mitigation techniques are employed to ensure staff either remain at their job or where efforts help them to move on to another.  The whole process is fraught with difficulty, emotional turmoil and outright frustration on both sides. Comparatively, the whole practice has been analysed and examined to such an extent that losing your job is similar to finding out you’re about to die (refer to the Kubler-Ross model).

Any simple search on Change Management will yield results of 975 million links, not to mention the sub-categories of principles, models, process, plan, strategy, definition, training and theory.  All of this largely hinges on change being implemented in the workplace, but none of it (that I have seen at least) has to do with how Change Management can be carried out to change attitudes and views within society.  To clarify, I am talking about changing people’s perceptions of other people to reduce, and ultimately erase, the enormous things prevalent within society.  As an example, at the time of writing two things that are largely talked about in 2014 are racism and homophobia.  For society to view the both of these in a new light, it will take the ultimate end for many of us for this to change – and that is death.

This blog is far from a call-to-arms for people to lay down their lives in order for these changes to happen, it is more of my own personal insight into how society has been able to change over the last millennia.  Let’s take for example some of the following scientific beliefs of the past:

·         DNA – Not so important: DNA was discovered in 1869, but for a long time, it was kind of the unappreciated assistant: doing all the work with none of the credit, always overshadowed by its flashier protein counterparts. Even after experiments in the middle part of the 20th century offered proof that DNA was indeed the genetic material, many scientists held firmly that proteins, not DNA, were the key to heredity. DNA, they thought, was just too simple to carry so much information.  It wasn't until Watson and Crick published their all-important double-helical model of the structure of DNA in 1953 that biologists finally started to understand how such a simple molecule could do so much. Perhaps they were confusing simplicity with elegance. (Source: Science Channel)

·         The Earth Is the Centre of the Universe: Chalk it up to humanity's collectively huge ego. Second-century astronomer Ptolemy's (blatantly wrong) Earth-centred model of the solar system didn't just stay in vogue for 20 or 30 years; it stuck around for a millennium and then some. It wasn't until almost 1,400 years later that Copernicus published his heliocentric (sun-centred) model in 1543. Copernicus wasn't the first to suggest that we orbited the sun, but his theory was the first to gain traction. Ninety years after its publication, the Catholic Church was still clinging to the idea that we were at the centre of it all and duking it out with Galileo over his defence of the Copernican view. Old habits die hard. (Source: Science Channel)

·         Alchemy:  The idea of morphing lead into gold may seem a little crazy these days, but take a step back and pretend you live in ancient or medieval times. Pretend you never took high-school chemistry and know nothing about elements or atomic numbers or the periodic table. What you do know is that you've seen chemical reactions that seemed pretty impressive: substances change colours, spark, explode, evaporate, grow, shrink, make strange smells - all before your eyes. Now, if chemistry can do all that, it seems pretty reasonable that it might be able to turn a dull, drab, grey metal into a bright, shiny yellow one, right? In the hopes of getting that job done, alchemists sought out the mythical "philosopher's stone," a substance that they believed would amplify their alchemical powers. They also spent a lot of time looking for the "elixir of life." Never found that, either. (Source: Science Channel  

So what changed?  

I can hear many people as I write this standing on various soap boxes stating that technology and the Internet has assisted in us knowing about events from around the world almost instantaneously (oh, and I’m sticking with “almost instantaneously” as you have to be logged in or switched on to find out information in the first place and quite frankly, everybody sleeps at some point).  In terms of science, many would say that we have tested and re-tested various hypotheses’ to gain a better understanding of the world around us. I agree with my soapbox compatriots…to a point. 

What really happened for all of this to change is for people to actually die – the only way to truly achieve Change Management on the millennial scale.

For those of you that are still here, let me make a bit of a case and explain myself.  Take the most recent pontiff, Pope Francis and some of the declarations he has made.  One in particular strikes a chord with me and I am certain with many people I know “Gay people should not be marginalized” (Source: Wikipedia). This statement in itself is massive change not only for the Catholic Church, but for the world in itself as the leader of one of the largest religions is changing the view on gay people.  It is also exceptional Change Management on a millennial scale and is extraordinarily clever. 

By making this declaration, Pope Francis has become a target for those who fundamentally believe that gay people have been marginalized previously and this theme should also continue with the new guy.  Clearly, many groups are upset by this news and have expressed their opinion being forthright in their objection.  The thing is, in millennial Change Management, their objection will be silenced by death. 

Providing the new pope continues his current stance (and there is no obvious reason he shouldn't considering the weight of approval from many around the world), the next leader won’t be able to go back on that fundamental statement.  In fact, the next leader may even have to go further and build on the original statement to make themselves appear even more progressive, whilst the next leader may have to do even more.  All while this is going on, the upset groups are getting older and the next generation is coming along growing up in this new enlightened world where being gay is no longer a controversial topic.  

Over the life of a few leaders, the objectors become less in number and the change becomes a normal part of society.  True Change Management on a millennial scale requires people to physically die clearing the path for new theory to be introduced, proven and adopted after all of the qualified detractors ceased to be.  Case in point from earlier “Ninety years after its publication, the Catholic Church was still clinging to the idea that we (here on Earth) were at the centre of it all and duking it out with Galileo over his defence of the Copernican view” (Source: Science Channel) 


Now you understand the concept, you can apply this very successfully to everything that has happened in the history of our world to explain how we have managed to come so far.  It is only by death that true Change Management occurs – it takes generations for our society to improve and leave behind, what we now consider archaic practices.