Luke Blair: There is no 'one size fits all' approach to handling the changes

There is no doubt that the public sector is bearing a huge burden of the tectonic changes happening all around us at the moment.

Luke Blair: changes will be difficult
Luke Blair: changes will be difficult
Every contact I have with press offices in taxpayer-funded bodies just now either starts or ends with a grim portent of what is just around the corner – for their organisation, their team, or themselves.

Activity on LinkedIn has gone positively haywire in recent weeks and a large part of that, on the evidence of my own networks, is due to public sector upheaval.

Hard times indeed. All very well for the Coalition to talk boldly about ‘getting to grips with the public finances’, ‘banishing waste’ and ‘reducing the deficit’ – but I’m afraid that when it comes to personal contacts, on the frontline of all this, those words sound rather hollow and one feels sympathy, above anything else.

All the more reason therefore for those leading and communicating change to manage it as carefully as possible. Doubtless there are diagrams, denial curves, and organisational models being pored over in offices all around the UK just now.

It is worth remembering, though, that more than two thirds of change programmes tend to fail and that there is seldom a straightforward organisational answer to a problem – it is in fact more likely that the organisation itself does not actually know the solution.  

And while some organisational models of change are more useful than others, no amount of theorising will ever come up with a model that is infallible.  

Leaders and communicators who manage change the best know this, are prepared to admit it, and know that while they will never bring everyone along with them, they do have to work with those more prepared to go with the flow, more prepared for the unexpected, and more comfortable with chaos.

That is not to say there should be no planning at all. Large public organisations do not perform very well when stumbling from one unexpected event to another. But equally there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Different voices deserve different treatment, and all are entitled to a share of the leader’s ear.  

Experts say that change these days is regarded as more of a rambling conversation than something that follows a clear, set pattern. Organisations don’t decide to change one day, process the change, and then stop.  In fact they never really stop changing.  Nor do people.  

We all live and work in a state of constant change – it is just that some of it is faster, more unpredictable – and more uncomfortable – than at other times.

Luke Blair is a director at London Communications Agency

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