My colleagues and I have often discussed which type of change manager gets more results, especially which type gets more results in our particular organization. We have a lot of pitbulls, who adopt a fairly confrontational stance when dealing with those who need to make a change. They sink their teeth into the data, make a bulletproof metric, and then proceed to beat their adversaries over the head until the metric moves. Performance is segmented and presented by person, not process. One group goes so far as to designate one general manager “Top Dog” and one “in the doghouse” (complete with a photo of the manager in a doghouse) on their metrics reporting portal each week.

Seriously. I’m not making this up.

I’ve worked with people like this before – senior management tends to love having people like this around because they force issues, upset the status quo and make things generally uncomfortable for those who need to change. In other words, they do senior management’s dirty work for them.

Like true pitbulls, they don’t let go once they have their teeth into something. They make things happen, that’s for sure. Whether they are always the right things is another matter.

On the other hand, you have consensus builders – the peacemakers. Short of bringing the guitar to meetings for a round of Kumbaya, they strive for accord. Never mind the fact that consensus means “what everyone can live with”, usually resulting in lowest common denominator solutions, instead of what’s best for the business or the customer. Peers often feel better in meetings led by these folks. They may not make things happen quickly, or make big things happen, but they tend to build a lot of support for whatever the team decides to do.

These are clearly extremes – most of us in the quality field probably have some of each, and have to exercise one over the other depending on the culture of our organizations, the personalities involved with the changes to be made, and the speed at which the changes are needed. These days, speed is probably more important in your firm than comfort – it is in mine.

At the end of the day, we have to be about results. Absolutely. Leadership should care about the process by which we achieve those results, though it often doesn’t.

So what’s your change management style? Has it changed during the economic downturn? Please post your thoughts in the comments section.

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