Cassandra and the ostriches

19 Oct

No, it is not the title of the next Woody Allen’s movie but what came to my mind when I think about a question about management of change.

Well, I know that it is not so obvious for you are not in my brain (lucky ones!) and of course you had not followed the path of my thinking.

More seriously, as a Change Practitioner, some people asked me what are the indicators which could show that a change is actually going on and by extension how can it be possible to measure the progression and the success of a change.

Interesting questions… Difficult answers!

Well, to be practical, let’s talk about the obvious. In a context of an announced change, when there is no feedback from the stakeholders, it is a good first indicator that something is not working properly.

Why?

Because the average human behavior toward change is a resistance attitude. It does not mean that everyone will shout his anger out, but different forms of message will certainly be sent to indicate that the situation of change has been felt, in a positive or in a negative way. These feedbacks will then constitute the first indicator of the actual existence of the change. On the contrary, if the change has been properly communicated and if no feedback is sent, there is a high probability that you have to deal with ostriches (first clue), this peculiar species which put its head in the sand when in danger. I know that one can argue that ignoring a change situation is a kind of resistance, a denial. Yes, it is right but without feedback it is more difficult to identify this form of resistance, at least, at the beginning of the implementation of a change.

Now, what about the indicator regarding the progression and the success of a change, once again you will need feedbacks to be able to measure the progression and of course to note a success, if any. Along the way of change, there is a particular type of stakeholders you may meet: The Cassandras (second clue), the Cassandras will always predict catastrophes, obviously triggered by the announced changes. This is another form of denial toward change, a more aggressive one than ignorance (remember? The ostriches), a more contaminating one too. There will always be “Cassandra’s type of stakeholders, what is important is that their proportion and the evolution of this proportion in the stakeholders’ population is a very good indicator regarding the progression and the probability of success for a change.

So, what lesson can we learn from that?

Feedbacks are essential and the absence of feedback is itself a feedback, although not a positive one, regarding the understanding of a change.

Stakeholders have to be assessed.

To conclude, I’d like to quote a citation:

“Change is not an event, it is a process”

A process along which you may encounter “Cassandra and the ostriches”

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