The more things change, the more they stay the same, by Kevin Gangel, Unstoppable Conversations

Unstoppable Conversations

Change hurts.  Not universally true, but close enough when we look at teams and organizations going through large-scale change initiatives.

In our last article, Change Management is only a Better Yesterday, we said that real, lasting, productive change usually doesn’t happen during a change initiative because the background context (the paradigm, the worldview, the thinking) that brought us the need to change in the first place stays firmly in place and drives the show during the change.  And when that happens, the bright and shiny future looks an awful lot like the dusty, dented, and hard-used past.

We looked at the kind of Thinking that, uninterrupted, will drive the self-fulfilling prophecy of failed change management.  The type of thinking, like a series of thought bubbles following everyone around through the change, and the associated actions that people take from that thinking look like this:

“There’s not enough” gives the action called Protect

  • “We’re right, and they’re wrong” only has room for the action called Tell, “Educate”, Argue, or Correct
  • “We have to get this right” is correlated to the action of Overplan AND Under-deliver
  • “We’ll tell you if and when we have to tell you” can only result in Keeping Things Secret, Deflecting authentic questions and concerns, and Safeguarding Information like it was gold
  • “We’ve got one shot at this” gives the action, or inaction in this case, of Not Taking Risks and Controlling everything you can get your hands on, including processes, people, and information
  • “They can’t handle the truth” provides endless opportunities to Treat People Like They are Dumb and to Protect Them for Their Own Good
  • “Look smart, don’t look dumb” gives the action of Pretending You Know something when in fact you are clueless
  • “Don’t tell me what to do” gives actions in the realm of Punish, Jockey for Position, and Argue.

Now let’s look at the impact of those actions.  Because every action has a result.  And every lack of action, in-action, has a result, as well.  And when you tally up the repeated actions of a large number of people then the aggregate results eventually become our new set of circumstances.  And when those actions are driven by ineffective, survival-based thinking, then those circumstances end up being the exact ones that we wanted to avoid in the first place…Oh, the irony!

  • Protect, taken in a context of scarcity, has the result of
  • Tell
  • “Educate”
  • Argue
  • Correct
  • Overplan
  • Under-deliver
  • Keep Secrets
  • Deflect questions and concerns
  • Safeguard Information
  • Don’t Take Risks
  • Control people
  • Control process
  • Control Information
  • Treat People Like They are Dumb
  • Protect Them for Their Own Good
  • Pretend You Know when in fact you don’t
  • Punish
  • Jockey for Position
  • Argue…wait, we said that one already…see #4!