The Bottom Line.
In this Asia-Pacific Insight, we give voice to an interesting entrepreneurial adventure run by Ron Leeman, a Change Management expert who makes the case for establishing a professional change management and transformation body in Asia. After years of practice in Europe, Ron came to Asia seeking new challenges, and the move gave him some interesting food for thought as to how change might work in the region. This insight explores his findings.
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Establishing a Professional Change Management & Transformation Body in Asia
[By Ron Leeman]
Leadership and change management matter a lot more than we think. As the backbone of our businesses and organizations, these disciplines also act as major drivers and, like any engine, they need to undergo a regular process of maintenance and upgrade, every now and then.
Surprisingly, however, Asia and the West are not equal on the matter. From a transformation certification, in particular, Asian actors have a lot to develop – yet the potential is immense, and I have decided to act accordingly.
My name is Ron Leeman and I am the Founder of the Institute of Change & Transformation Professional (ICTPA), a professional ‘Change and Transformation’ body based in Asia which also happens to be a fascinating entrepreneurial journey from which many entrepreneurs and executives can learn. In this article, I am documenting some of the project’s progress and findings; hopefully, it can lead to further discussions and exchanges!
Change and transformation: a bit of context.
Having practiced change and transformation since 1974 and following some fifteen successful years working on the interim/contract market in the UK, Europe and internationally, I decided to move to South East Asia in 2011.
My reasons were simple: having come out of the most recent global financial crisis stronger than other regions, Asia was starting to steer the world’s economic growth. Not only did I want to be part of that growth, but I also hoped to explore whether and how my change and transformation skills would apply similarly to the region.
As a general rule, the key driver in sustaining growth is effective leadership. In Asia’s context, however, things were more complex than they seemed and, interestingly, there were significant differences with the methods practiced in the West. Each region has its unique characteristics and challenges but – notwithstanding the location – a leader’s responsibilities is always to lead change and transformation. So, I wanted to understand the different cultural dynamics that impacted practicing change & transformation in the Region.
To this end, I undertook some rudimentary research to try and discover what those different cultural dynamics were. The research results found a certain element of consistency in that the three “lead” cultural dynamics that emerged in the Region were Hierarchy (72% of all respondents scored this element with 16% giving this their highest score); Responsibility (73% of all respondents scored this dynamic with 10% giving this their highest score) and Change Awareness (63% of all respondents scored this element with 30% giving this their highest score).
These three dynamics featured in the top three dynamics of most countries e.g. Thailand, Indonesia & Vietnam had all of the above dynamics in their top three. Singapore, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Pakistan & China had two of the above dynamics in their top three. Bangladesh, the Philippines & Japan had just one of the above dynamics in their top three and all countries had the dynamics in their top six.
Gaps in the Change Management Market.
In line with those insights, I had a Skype conversation about a year ago with a connection with whom I regularly discuss Change Management certification/accreditation and various other things.
As expected, the conversation got on to the question of Change Management here in Asia and to the kind of penetration seen by the leading professional bodies– e.g. the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) in the USA, and the Change Management Institute (CMI) in Australia – as well as by the main certification/accreditation bodies (Prosci & APMG).
After the conversation, I did a quick check and noted that ACMP had a Potential Chapter in Hong Kong (now set up) and that the CMI had no Chapters in Asia. In addition, there were a few individuals working in Asia with Prosci certification in their LinkedIn profile.
This got me to two conclusions. One, the penetration of the leading bodies in Asia was not that brilliant. Two, Asia had a different outlook to Change Management and professionalization than the West – which clearly backed up my earlier research.
To test my thoughts, I uploaded a post onto LinkedIn with a view to getting a better handle on this aspect. There were some interesting replies such as “this profession has tremendous growth and opportunities in many years to come”, or “Change Management practitioners in time will abound and be much sought after, as they gain the reasonable amount of experience”. That was an interesting start.
A week later, I uploaded a video which I called my “Sunday ramble” onto LinkedIn asking for specific feedback as to whether there was any merit/interest in driving an initiative to establish a professional Change Management body in Asia.
This received even more interest and engagement than the original post and many positive comments such as “Yes, culture plays a big role in change and there is a dire need to acknowledge the fact that due to the differences, the approaches need to be different”; “Emerging economies in Asia need such professional body to steer change processes within educational institutions, corporations, govt bodies and not for profit organizations for better growth and development” and “It will certainly be interesting having the insight on different implementations when you consider national/local aspects; government/state decision making styles; vendor/consulting firm implementation methods; et al.”
>> Read also: An Asian Perspective on HR and Change Management with Isabelle Michelet.
In addition I also contacted the ACMP & CMI and asked them the following question: “how does the CMI through its Accreditation, Competency Model, CMBoK and Training capabilities and the ACMP through its Certification, Standard and Educational offerings cater for the different ways change is practiced in Asia given all of the very different cultural dynamics that impact change across the Region?”.
After a while, I eventually got replies from both the but they did not address the core question I asked which again indicated to me that there was little recognition in what they are doing for the Asian market.
The Change Management Survey.
Based on this high engagement and level of interest I decided to initiate a survey in September 2018 to get a better idea of whether proposing a new professional body for Change Management certification would make sense.
In the main, the survey was to establish whether there would be interest in Asia having its own professional Change Management body that represented change professionals in the Region similar to the ACMP or the CMI or should there be Asia Chapters created for either of these two bodies?
In addition, the point was also to try and gain an understanding of the perceived benefits of joining an Asian CM professional body. Perhaps some colleagues would be interested in being a part of a “working group” to help set-up a professional Asian Change Management body? Perhaps they would provide insights as to how to support the Asian Change Management community, by way of training, certifications, networking events, knowledge, coaching/mentoring, etc.
The survey was sent to 232 LinkedIn first degree connections involved in some way with change and/or transformation in Asia, and the following are some of the insights obtained from the responses:
- Reply rate was 110 or 47.4% – which was extremely positive.
- Replies came from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Bangladesh.
- Only a small proportion of those who participated was either a member of the ACMP (6.4%) or the CMI (4.6%).
- In answer to the key question “Do you think there would be interest in Asia having its own CM body that represents change professionals in the Region similar to the ACMP or the CMI or should there be Asia chapters created for either of these two bodies?”, 54.5% answered that they would hope for a separate Asian body.
- In answer to the question “Would you be prepared to be part of a “working group” to help set-up an Asian CM professional body?”, 80% of respondents said they would.
This was clearly encouraging, but I didn’t feel it gave me a specific mandate to pursue the initiative. To try and get this mandate, I, therefore, sent the survey results to all participants and also published an abridged version on LinkedIn and asked for feedback to confirm or otherwise whether we should or should not go ahead.
Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons, the request for feedback mentioned above only garnered limited responses which were aligned the previous levels of feedback and support received so it was back to the drawing board.
At the beginning of January 2019, to try and re-establish momentum, I sent out direct e-mails and LinkedIn messages to over 300 people who made up my “Asia Change Agent” database. This set was a mix of those who participated in the original survey, to which I added the new (relevant) LinkedIn connections I had made since then. And, this time, the feedback requested was an answer to one of the two following two questions:
- YES, I think you should pursue the establishment of a professional Change Management Body for Asia.
- NO, I don’t think you should pursue the establishment of a professional Change Management Body for Asia.
This had the desired effect in that I started to receive more feedback. I also set myself some aspirational targets for the feedback which were:
- Original Survey Participants: 60% feedback rate – 60% of those saying Yes.
- New LinkedIn Connections: 50% feedback rate – 40% of those saying Yes.
These targets were comfortably achieved:
- Original Survey participants = 64% – Go/No Go status = 86.3% said Go.
- New LinkedIn Connections = 72.6% – Go/No Go status = 96.7% said Go.
So, based on these original survey results and the results from the e-mail/messaging request I created a document called the ‘Case for establishing a Change & Transformation Professional Body in Asia‘ which I then sent out to in February 2019 to all interested parties. This gave me the definitive mandate to pursue this initiative which is what I was looking for.
The project is only starting, but we have now established twelve Country Representatives and five Working Groups who are currently working on different aspects of how the body will shape up – think Vision & Mission, Membership Criteria, Training & Education, Funding & Sponsorship and Marketing & Promotion.
Meanwhile. We will look at associating with/establishing close collaboration with educational establishments. We will also align ourselves to those that are active in the change & transformation space in Asia ranging from some of the large Asia consultancies like TCS, HCL, Tech Mahindra, Infosys, Wipro to bespoke Training providers in the Region.
We are, also, currently in negotiation with the Asian Institute of Technology extension who have already provided us with a Letter of Association regarding them collaborating on the initiative. Further discussions have yet to be had regarding the full extent of what that collaboration will look like.
Overall, and as demonstrated by the market analysis phase, the willingness is strong to establish a body that will cater to a number of Asian countries. Interestingly, each has their specific culture which all have an impact on how change and transformation are practiced.
Ultimately, we might help tackle two sets of issues.
On the one hand, we have an opportunity to develop tailor-made solutions designed to encourage more Change Management best practices on a country basis. On the other hand, gathering data will also help us draw a big picture of what Change Management looks like in Asia – and this, I have no doubt, can make a major contribution from a very global perspective. If you are interested in contributing to the discussion, please get in touch!
Ron Leeman | Change Management & Transformation Expert.
Ron Leeman has been in the business of Change Management for more than 3 decades, gaining over 1000 Endorsements and 100 Recommendations on LinkedIn. Ron has worked worldwide in many industry sectors ranging from Financial Services, to Pharmaceuticals through to Transportation, Utilities and Telecoms for who he has “change managed” the implementation of a multitude of diverse technologies such as ERP (SAP, Oracle, MS Dynamics), Core Banking, Data Centre, Back Office Trading and Document Management.
Ron is a Change Management Trainer who provides Change Management Coaching & Mentoring, and is and a successful author/seller of many Change Management Frameworks and Templates. He is also a prolific Change Management blogger on LinkedIn, with over 60+ articles published garnering in excess of 100,000 views. In 2012 Ron Leeman was bestowed with a Change Leader of Tomorrow Award by the World HRD Congress in recognition of his “remarkable progress in initiating changes enough for others in the same industry to follow his example”.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of their author(s) only and do not reflect those of The Asia-Pacific Circle or of its editors unless otherwise stated.
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