The Challenge of Change
(Ugh, Not This Again?)

* This Phrase is used in a high number of CEO letters and management reports every year.

The truth? Bosses seem to love change, but when the subject is change, it scares the pants off of people.

Time to wake up about the destruction caused by “change”. CEO’s listen up. Find another approach. Successors get ready to move up.


The True Challenge of Change…is to Find Another Way to Talk About it,or Suffer the Consequences. 

  1. Change rattles everyone.
  2. Change disturbs community, personal, and organizational values.
    1. It better be good.
    2. It better be worth it.
    3. The tomorrow change promises must be better than the yesterday we know and want to keep.
  3. Change distorts, disturbs, and unsettles cultural norms and expectations.
    1. Creates stress, critics, and angry people who accumulate.
    2. Creates confusion from inadequate explanations, rigid deadlines, and failure to answer questions when those answers are needed.
  4. Cushion the blow, reduce the bad news.
    1. Change always causes bad news that ages badly.
    2. Bad news gets worse before it gets better.
    3. Bad news never ends in the place you expect, plan, or hope for.
  5. You have to meet with your fiercest opposition…because the victim’s change creates will have more power than you.
    1. Your most trusted people expect you to do this promptly.
    2. Delaying this activity forces opponents to lag behind and never catch up. They then resort to talking about yesterday when change is always about tomorrow.
  6. The truth metric is 15% facts and data, 85% emotion and point of reference. (Believe it.)
    1. Excessive reliance on data is defensive and irritates and re-victimizes, then agitates the rest.
    2. Understanding a person’s point of reference will determine if they will accept changes; not care about a change; or work against whatever you propose to change
    3. Emotion and points of reference are what drive people’s actual understanding of events rather than reams of data and facts. In fact, reams and facts simply make everybody else feel stupid barring even the remotest understanding of the changes you’re proposing.
  7. If you must talk about change, prepare for the negative impact.
    1. Even the threat of change will likely be resisted.
    2. Think about getting your successor off the bench and warmed up.
  8. Manage the politics of predictable stakeholder behavior.
    1. Tests to filter new ideas:
      1. Is it simple, sensible, constructive, helpful, or doable?
      2. How many critics and enemies will it create?
      3. How many will feel re-victimized/very inspired, and motivated?
      4. Will it be helpful in achieving management’s goals?
      5. Will it be helpful in achieving the organization’s overall goals?
      6. Even if the answers to 4 and 5 are yes, is it really necessary?
      7. Will it make for a better tomorrow? For whom?
      8. For whom will tomorrow’s change be worse after today?
      9. What will fail to succeed if change is delayed, denied, or significantly modified?
    2. Get your inside game working. So, your outside game can succeed.
  9. Leaders lose their jobs from a predictable series of possible causes:
    1. Failure to perform as expected.
    2. Distracted by questionable projects, programs, or expectations.
    3. People problems caused by new top people failing to help those in place understand the changes being proposed.
    4. AWOL, focusing too much on the new stuff and not what makes your organization succeed day to day.
    5. Actual success in establishing destructive changes.
  10. Ask yourself this question several times each day: Will the changes being proposed create more happier, more productive, satisfied, and constructively motivated people than it will wound or offend?

Communication Imperatives to Help Change, or Whatever you Call it.

  1. Communicate positively with energy and frequently from the start.
  2. Repeat essential concepts constantly.
  3. Repeat what you repeat.
    1. People who feel victimized or confused hardly hear anything but their own voices.
    2. Repetition benefits everyone, but especially those who feel victimized.
  4. Answer every question over and over again. When do you stop? When there are no more questions.
  5. Ask and answer questions people should be asking but may not be.
  6. Please avoid asking, “Do you have any questions?” (Chances are they don’t. Instead, spontaneously repeat things. Frequently supply the questions and answers you know they need to know, when they need to know them.
  7. Remember change was your idea. Take positive, aggressive responsibility for the process.
  8. Frequently repeat reports on progress as specifically as you can. “We’re making great progress; everybody is doing what they are supposed to.” Is a lie and a wandering generality. Be specific. Site names, dates, places, actions, and the impact of those achievements.
  9. Always publish the questions you detest, especially from those you may find detestable. You’re obligated to provide constructive, helpful, and useful answers every time.