A Confession: Change Is A Dirty Word

I need to admit a mistake I made a few years ago:

I started using the word change’.

It flowed into my branding, my books, even this very newsletter. In my naivete at the time, I didn’t fully grasp how much the term had been narrowed and pigeonholed by the field of ‘change management’.

You see, when I was say the word change, I mean it in its purest form: to make something different!

Not just comms, or training, or even shifting behaviour – But changing the reality of your organisation.

Creating a more valuable end state.

…Sure changing people is part of it, but so is reading the environment, understanding the context, devising a strategy, defining success, building the thing, learning as you go, measuring the right things, marketing it internally, selling and pitching, running experiments, and, well you get the idea…

Back in August 2021 when I released my top-seller Valuable Change I had a vision of breaking the narrow siloes that masquerade as ‘industry best practice’. I even started using the phrase ‘change leadership’ to better convey what I was talking about.

But over the last few years I’ve realised two things:

First – Leading a meaningful difference in your organisation is even more cross-disciplinary than I first anticipated. Effective change leaders wear many hats: They are strategists, marketers, salespeople, corporate-entrepreneurs, behavioural engineers, servant-leaders and project managers. This is often on top of being content-experts and running BAU teams. The only way they can do this successfully is by ignoring ‘best practice’ methodologies and by stripping away the arbitrary delineations between them all.

True change leaders focus on the DNA of the change. Why do things need to be different? How will we know we’re making an impact? What do we need to try first. Everything else flows from this core.

Second – Similar to the way that Tesla now means an awesome electric car, the term ‘change’ is a thoroughly entrenched shorthand for ‘change management’. So for those that share my mission of integrated and pragmatic approaches to creating meaningful valuable difference, …we may need a new term.

I’m open to ideas.

And A Quick Note: When Your Time Is Short

Executive-level advisory is a large part of my business. While there’s always an objective we’re steering the organisation towards, often the advisory relationship grows into a friendship. With that comes discussions about my client’s career and what’s next for them. In cases where our joint project is looking to be the last thing they’re going to do at the organisation, my advice is usually something along the lines of:

“So what are you going to experiment with before you leave? What are you going to do differently?”

Because frankly, if you know your time in an organisation is limited – then you absolutely should be trying new ideas and strategies. While these experiments should all be aligned with organisational intent & values, you are in a unique career period where internal perceptions and politics are of little worry. It’s best not to waste it.

For those more visual of you, the short video below summarises the idea beautifully.

Question: What are you experimenting with at the moment?

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 2 years since Valuable Change released. I’ve certainly learned & designed a hell of a lot since then. Might be time for another book…

See you all next week.