I want to talk about something I've been thinking about lately. And that is, the "business" of change management.
I've touched briefly on this before, but I'd like to start a series of posts that look a little more closely at this "industry". Let's start with the quote that set me off on this topic.
A friend of mine works at a company where a quote of the day is sent via e-mail to the employees. Recently, she forwarded me one of the quotes. It's by Seth Godin, the self described "bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change".
Competent people resist change. Why? Because change threatens to make them less competent. And competent people like being competent. That's who they are, and sometimes that's all they've got. No wonder they're not in a hurry to rock the boat.
In the face of change, the competent are helpless. Change means a temporary or permanent threat to their competence. But among the competent, the smart ones realize that change is inevitable...
My friend stared at this quote on her screen for a few minutes, unsure of how to take it. She felt insulted at some level and felt like this was an attempt to subtly manipulate her.
And I agree.
My friend considers herself (and in fact is) a very competent person at work. She also knows that she despises the way the managers and executives at her workplace will change things that are working perfectly fine just for the sake of change or because they read some article in a magazine that discussed a new trend. She appropriately refers to this practice as "mucking it up". When she and her coworkers inevitably resist the unnecessary change, management comes full force with change management courses, recommended books and mandatory workshops. This is very consistent with my corporate experience as well.
So is it any surprise then, that propaganda like this pops up in corporate inboxes?
Sending supposedly wise quotes like this straight to the employee's daily e-mail serves as a preemptive strike against said competent people who resist change—management's thorn in the side. And why is a propaganda campaign a necessary part of battle for management? Because management knows that competent people are smart enough to know that the change they are resisting is ridiculous and unnecessary. And in order to make those people comply, they take the best (and most classic) approach to ensure compliance: Make them think that something is innately wrong with their personality. They must make their employees believe that they know what's best for them. They must make them believe that their competency is not enough. And lastly, they must make them believe that in order for employees to succeed, they need to follow along and not question any changes.
The thinking is, then, that if you send quotes like this (written by someone who profits off of getting people to adapt to change) to employees ahead of time, when change comes again, they will most likely say to themselves "If I am smart, I will adapt well to this change".
Utterly covert manipulation!
I'll end the first post in this series with a quote to Mr. Godin from me: Competent people do not resist competent change.
twiz (10/02/2006) Great post! What a lame quote! Since when is a competent person no longer a good worker? What about all the incompetent workers? They must really be up $hits creek.
avid reader (10/03/2006) Oh how much I agree with this! I CANNOT STAND when they shove these kind of workshops down your throat just to serve their own needs and make you fit their mold. Thanks for acknowledging this practice!
avid reader (10/03/2006) p.s. love the picture of the competent guy with his mouth shushed!
BPFH (10/04/2006) Got this type of workshop three years ago, actually. Did you know there's actually a "Who Moved My Cheese" *movie*? I only wish I was joking, but I had to watch the thing...
firstname.lastname@example.org (10/16/2006) This article is a great display of why most companies fail. First of all, you don't have to send dumb e-mails to employees with a quote of the day. Quotes don't motivate people to do anything. Either your motivated within yourself or not. Secondly, everyone has to change whether you like it or not. That is how you remain competitive, because you might feel comfortable where you are in your company, but someone is always staying up at night trying to figure out how they can do better or deliver a service better than you can.All people resist change, and that's okay. What isn't okay is not changing.Dr. Edwards Deming said: "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."