What Exactly is “Change,” Anyway?

Part 1 of 3 (Originally published on LinkedIn on 10/17/16)

During the course of our never-ending nightmare of another Presidential election campaign, the ubiquitous term “change” is yet bandied about again. It’s as common a staple to most any election to public office, from President to Dog Catcher.

Ever since I joined the work force decades ago, “change” has been a synonym for “something better.” CEO’s and their minions have clamored for change, expected and demanded change, and have paid through the nose for change.

But why? Is “change” really meant to make things better? I mean, think about it: if you don’t know where you are now, how you got there, and why you let it slide, just WHAT are you going to change? Your people? Your processes and/or procedures? Something inherent to your particular business, such as your product or service? Sure! Why not?

Anyone who’s read at least one or two of my previous posts are probably scratching their heads right now wondering why someone who brings positive change to companies through the facilitation of turnaround principles and disciplines, continuous improvement practices, and growth strategies would be attacking the concept of change.

Well, I’m not really “attacking” it, but rather, taking a close, hard look at it. And the reason I’m doing so is that seemingly every company I have worked with over the last several years has told me straight up that “change” is what they want…what they crave…what they must have to stay competitive, etc. And when I ask them what THEY think “change” is, I get as many different answers as there colors and hues in a Pantone swatch set; rarely do I get non-unique responses.

Yes, we’ve fallen into a collective trap – be it politics, business, finance, personal issues, what have you – where we say we want change, but don’t have the slightest clue what it should be, let alone enact it. Oh sure, pundits, armchair experts and academics purport to know what is needed and, in some instances, how to make it happen. But the existential evidence shows us that they don’t know a darn thing, because there is no activity, let alone results. This is deemed the “Fallacy of Experts.”

Whether I’m discussing at length with a governing board, CEO or a COO what they’re looking for vis a vis change or change management, or whether you’re staring at your television or computer and wondering what the hell any candidate stands for, let alone their capability of making it happen, real “change” comes few and far between.

Let me provide a taste of what I’m leading to. Several years ago, many people saw the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as a change-worthy approach to covering people who otherwise couldn’t get health care. Whether you’re for or against it – either in the past or now – you’d be in the minority if you thought the ACA achieved its goals and objectives. Obamacare wasn’t change; to the contrary, it was/is a mess, a diversion, a misjudged and poorly planned and executed attack on health care reform.

So, when your favorite politician talks about reforming Social Security or Medicare, beat them over the head with questions and roadblocks until you and any expert you trust is satisfied with the direction they’re taking. And if you’re working at a company where they throw around the term “change” like, well, spare change, hopefully your upper management team has provided a course of action for you to blow the whistle on any activity that is misguided. 

So folks, the time has come to discuss the concept of change (and its first cousin, “change management”) a bit – what it is, what it should be, what it looks like, how it feels, and how to implement it. Please read my next post within the next couple of days or so where I will try to do just that.