Charles-Henri Russon is one of the core founders of the International Multidisciplinary Change Management (IMCM®) framework. We asked him a few questions to learn more about the model and its roots.
The origins of the IMCM® framework:
[amontis] Dear Charles-Henri, you are the main instigator behind the creation of the IMCM® framework. Tell us a bit more about how you came up with the idea and how you started to develop this framework.
[Charles-Henri Russon] It was between 2002 and 2004 when our friends from Quebec, notably from the UQAM (University of Québec in Montréal), had already made good experiences with the PMI® (Project Management Institute®) framework and obtained their certifications, in particular the PMP® (Project Management Professional®) certification. Back then, change management was not at all a focus of PMI®, and the recommendations for leading changes according to their framework could be severely criticised given the numerous failures from IT deployments to product portfolio reorganisations. There was obviously something missing.
The aspect of the certification as a proof of professionalism was important to us as anyone can easily call him- or herself a Change Manager and since the real costs (human, technical and economic) behind failed changes or transformations are especially painful. Professionalising the change management sector in a similar manner as the project management sector was essential for us.
I was working at HEC Paris and my colleague Carole Lalonde was a member of the Change Management chair at the Laval University in Québec when we decided to submit the idea to our university partners of creating a compilation of best practices about change management along with a two level certification system: the first one being dedicated to transmitting the theoretical knowledge of the framework, and the second one to recognising the hands-on expertise of a change manager. It took us around 6 months to collect and bring together the work of a dozen of scholars and consultant teams to craft a complete and extensive framework. We named it “International Multidisciplinary Change Management (IMCM®)” because we wanted to emphasise the fact that real change management holds at its core strong inter-cultural and inter-disciplinary aspects. It is not possible to change a team of employees in a bank as you would change a rolling mill line in the metalwork industry just as you cannot change a North American team the same way you would change a team of Europeans, Africans or Chinese.
From the beginning, the IMCM® framework compiled a very rich corpus of practices and was most of all very well organised. Grouped in 9 phases and based on an agile mindset, the management strategies developed with the help of IMCM® framework are quick to tailor and to adapt according to the change faced, which make them particularly efficient and easy to put into practice in comparison to the ones developed with other more monolithic deployment methods. That’s the whole richness of this model: You have the choice between more than fifty deliverables ranging from listening techniques and analyses to innovation methods including more than thirty studies, cartographies and a dozen of combinable change management modes depending on the needs of the situation.
In 15 years, we have continuously improved and updated the framework – we just released the 8th edition – but the core focus remained on best practice tools that are easy to integrate in any strategy. Similar to other frameworks, the more mature it gets, the more stable it becomes. And while the content is not changing as much anymore as before, the collaboration between the participating universities has evolved a lot and continues to do so. Some of these universities are globally acclaimed like the university of la Sorbone Paris Cité, the Paris Descartes University, the University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM), the Collège Polytechnique of Liege but also the IGA of Casablanca or the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar (UCAD).
How many people worked or are still working on the framework?
From the two initiators we gradually evolved into a cooperation of more than 50 experts and more than 300 change managers around the globe, being an active part of the IMCM® network. The framework exists now in French, English, German, Italian and classical Arabic and is currently being translated into further languages.
About the IMCM® framework:
What is the main benefit of the IMCM® framework in your eyes?
I would say, after 15 years of practice, that there are 3 main characteristics: First and foremost, it is accessible for all kinds of managers. In addition, it is very comprehensive, especially if you take into account all the possible combinations between all the tools presented in the reference book and finally, it is immediately applicable in an extremely wide range of situations, sectors, change types or challenge types encountered by everyone facing a change. Plus: You only need a three-days training to understand the dynamic of the framework.
I would also say that the content is well documented and easy to find, which is a must for a practitioner.
The term “multidisciplinary” is an integral part of the framework. Why do you think that multidisciplinarity is necessary to successfully drive change? Is there any particular discipline that is essential for the success of a project?
You will notice quickly that, if you want to change an organisation, you need to take into account and integrate the logic of each profession within this organisation. Each of us needs to understand the meaning of the change. Each of us needs to see his or her work respected and at the same time the work itself requires updates and developments so that it can evolve. That’s the first step in our reflection about the importance of the multidisciplinary aspect.
Then it is obvious that changes can often impact more than one profession, more than one culture. If you can care for each person, you can gain time in understanding the real problems, in lowering the resistance against change, in achieving a higher adoption rate, or simply said, having better results. That is one of the challenges of a well-thought-out approach to change management.
Finally, the team that is driving change often needs to be multidisciplinary itself: with specific technical knowledge and with specific communication skills in order to be able to cope with the economic goals that require to build up intervention teams or a steering committee that again needs to be multidisciplinary.
So we can see that transversality is at the core of change. As silo thinking is becoming a thing of the past and interfaces are increasingly simplified, different professions and disciplines have to work closer together. This requires them to communicate with each other in a quicker and better way. It allows new kinds of jobs or functions to emerge in companies as well as 4.0 factories and all services along the way of the digital transformation.
To be able to leverage this multidisciplinary approach is probably one of the key factor of the success of IMCM®.
But nowadays, we can also see that the international and multi-cultural aspects are constituting a significant challenge for teams in charge of global roll-outs or international partnerships.
The IMCM® framework is not only based on theoretical research but it is also based on practical . How did you integrate these?
That was the strength of the first team that worked on IMCM®. Indeed, for our academic departments, we had to synthetize hundreds of training programs, meet up with dozens of professionals and also cater for a vast variety of changes, such as the restructuring of healthcare systems, simplification of administrative services, the rise of online commerce and services, the development of automated production lines, the implementation of zero defects approaches or lean management in factories or value chains.
The framework is an excellent summary of hundreds of best practices shared by consultants, project managers, change managers, department managers or plant managers. This is what the participants of the preparation course for the IMCM® certification appreciate very much.
The IMCM® framework today:
IMCM® is getting ever more popular and continues to grow, especially abroad. What can you tell us about this evolution?
What a great human adventure! It is such a pleasure to meet other change managers that have to combat their own challenges. We often stay too focused on our own goals. To be able to take a step back is important.
What struck me the most is probably the cultural difference in front of change. To train Chinese managers, Moroccan managers or Swiss ones has giving me a good insight about what the real challenges of globalisation are.
But besides that, what I retain from the more than 15 years of work with the IMCM® network, is that whatever the job you might do, in which industrial logic you are, the culture you are in, or whatever the difficulties you face, the perceptions, priorities, anticipatory capabilities you have, in the end, we all face similar challenges with the same deep-rooted issues.
Officially, the framework and certification came out in 2009 and the 8th edition of the framework was published recently. We can see that IMCM® is reaching now a kind of maturity as you said and that the framework is getting ever more stable. Can we now only expect minor changes?
It is a bit contradictory but since the 5th or 6th edition, we already noticed that we did not have major core changes anymore. The vocabulary is getting richer. New challenges, new methods, or new technological opportunities are allowing faster changes but the core – which is how to support human, technical or economical changes – stays stable, universal and essential. We all need more agility, but the main principles governing agile workflows are better known, understood and integrated now. We need to stay fast in the transformation processes but the main levers or impediments have already been identified – as well as the solutions. If you take the latest edition, we included sharing platforms and online follow-up processes as they are rapidly growing. So we are effectively increasing the amount of tools that can be used inside of the IMCM® framework rather than doing changes to the methodology itself. So we can foresee further changes in this way with some updates to the actual toolbox. One of the major changes will however probably come from our online platform with more contents like press reviews, comments and experience feedbacks, new tools or approaches.
What to expect in the future:
As you mentioned the near future of the IMCM®, what are for you the next big steps for the framework?
For 2020, we will actually focus on making the certification more popular. It is crucial for a certification to be well-known, appreciated and widespread. The IMCM® framework is going to have is 10 years anniversary, and this is the best that we can wish for its future.
Any advice for someone who would like to know more about IMCM®?
You can always visit the official website of IMCM® (www.IMCM®.eu) or visit the amontis website to find out how you can get certified as an IMCM® expert and join our international network of change managers!
About Charles-Henri Russon
Charles-Henri Russon is currently the head of the continuing education program at the Collège Polytechnique International in Liege, Belgium. He has worked for more than 30 years for organisations that are undergoing, most of the time, rapid changes like hospitals, industrial groups, administrations, banks but also smaller structures.
He acknowledges that a proper management of theses changes is becoming ever more critical and gives a notable competitive advantage when done well for the team in charge.
For him, there is no doubt that a successful Change Manager can be a very valuable asset, as he can foster the right mindset and federate a team towards the right goals. It was while working with colleagues from Quebec, Canada, that he developed the idea of creating a specific, practical and extensive framework for Change Management along with a certification. This framework is now known as IMCM®.
We would like to warmly thank Charles-Henri for his time and for his explanations.
This article was first published in our initiative*magazine, issue #11, the change gap.