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Friday, 29 November 2013 00:00

6 Completely Unhelpful Cliches About Change (Management)

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I suppose that every profession has its (negative) stereotypes, but some days it seems like change management has more than others.  Maybe it's because change management often sits next to OD (organizational development), which tends to sit next to HR...and everyone loves to make fun of HR, even when they're simultaneously saying that people are their mosst important asset.

cliches in change management

Whatever the reason, I found myself thinking about these stereotypes and cliches today, and how I address them.  Maybe you'll find my responses helpful the next time you're trapped in a boardroom watching a PowerPoint presentation littered with statements that sound good but actually aren't helpful at all.

1.  "If you're not riding the wave of change, you'll find yourself underneath it."

I guess this is supposed to conjure images of a surfer, skimming expertly atop the swell, while unsuspecting swimmers are pulled to their deaths by the undertow.  But it's good to remember that waves are transitory, and in fact can be generated in enclosed bodies of water that go nowhere.  So - to continue the metaphor - you may be expending an awful lot of energy to 'ride' something that isn't going to be there tomorrow anyway.  A better strategy might be to become a stronger swimmer.

2.  "We need to see some quick wins in order to get buy-in."

All I have to say about this one is:  If you didn't get buy-in before you started, a few quick wins aren't going to help you.  This says to me that you haven't helped anyone, senior management or employees, understand the goals and rewards.  Quick wins won't change this - they'll only leave you on a path you can't sustain.  If you have to constantly demonstrate 'quick wins' to keep people on your side, you aren't set up for success.

3.  "Let's not get trapped in the past."

Yes, change is about moving forward.  The problem is that "Let's not get trapped in the past" can often become "Let's throw the baby out with the bathwater", which is not productive.  Examining your organizational history with an eye to keeping the good stuff and changing the bad is a more effective foundation for meaningful change.

4.  "We need to get all our ducks in a row."

There's a big difference between 'taking the time to get it right' and 'putting the launch date off for another 6 weeks because Bob from Accounting can't be bothered to come to meetings and his team still hasn't completed their deliverables.'  Great change management sometimes requires decisive action - like telling Bob that whether his ducks are coming or not, everyone else is off to the pond.

5.  "This organization is already changing - every single day!"

This cliche is particularly dangerous, because it's both completely true and completely false at the same time.  No organization is completely static:  Market conditions fluctuate, employees join and leave, clients buy more or less - so yes, the organization is changing on a day-to-day basis.  But in many fundamental ways it's not changing at all.  Overall, it's still selling the same products, using the same computers, operating from a stable location, etc.  Not all change is created equal.  You may be able to change the brand of coffee in the staff room without too much upheaval, for example, but replacing the coffee with tea is likely to be significantly more problematic.  And that's just coffee, not a major process shift.

6.  "Everyone around here is used to change because we change a lot."

If you think your employees are used to change because you are constantly changing their world, you're wrong.  They're tired.  They are bone tired.  And they aren't any better at change but they've figured out it doesn't matter, because you change so often they know nothing you mandate will be around for very long.  This doesn't bode well for the overall health of the business, so you might want to get your money up-front.  

No doubt there will be a Part II to this list of cliches, because I know there are many.

What change management cliches get your eyes rolling?

(As always, find me on Twitter @BethBanksCohn.)






Read 38913 times Last modified on Sunday, 01 December 2013 06:48

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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