change and adaptation in the business environment
March 6, 1997 (as amended)

Change management is the process of actively managing a transition from one state to another. This is accomplished by researching the change and its drivers, formulating plans and forecasts, implementing strategies, measuring outcomes and comparing those outcomes with the forecasts, and adapting the methodology in response, in an iterated, continually-refined process.

A managed process is preferred to an ad-hoc, unplanned approach as it minimises turbulence during the transition.

Change management is employed in business to transition a firm from one particular marketing or management position to another.


A generic problem

Traditional approaches to turbulent, dynamic, non-linear, evolutionary systems involve the use of static, linear systems to block or hide those conditions. However, static systems can never match dynamic systems; a dam will eventually overflow, if the volume of water behind it continues to grow. Even if it does not, weeds and other forms of corrosion will eventually compromise the structural integrity of the dam and it will collapse. Static systems are thus unsuited to long-term management of dynamic systems.

A generic solution

The best way to approach dynamic systems is with other dynamic systems. We need a dam that senses if it is too full, and adds extra height to itself; as this is clearly impossible, or at least, very unlikely, we need an alternative strategy, and that strategy must be, don't use static systems to deal with dynamic systems. Let's fight fire with fire, and use our own dynamism instead. This is indeed how a stealth-bomber flies; an onboard computer constantly compensates for its inherently unstable aerodynamics.

This means, sensing our shortcomings, and hazards in the environment, and adapting ourselves so as to mitigate those shortcomings and hazards. It also means, sensing our strengths, and opportunities in the environment, and adapting ourselves so as to build on those strengths and opportunities.

It means harnessing the key evolutionary mechanism of continuous incremental improvement. This mechanism can be used to refine all our systems, to the point where they are as good as they can be made. The process can be applied to all spheres of endeavour, including science, economics, politics and even cultural systems such as law and order - wherever there is evolution, there can be continuous incremental improvement. Nature uses this mechanism to create increasingly sophisticated organisms, including humans. That we exist is proof of its power.

And it means building feedback loops, core components of all dynamic systems - these are the mechanisms that members of the system use to determine their optimal path, eg. the courses of action likely to produce the most beneficial outcomes. Positive feedback guides the member closer to the optimum, while negative feedback guides the member away from the sub- optimum. With no loop, there's no guidance, which will eventually lead to unsustainability.