Eight Questions Chapter Six – Part 4 | Change Management – What’s Your History?

J. Keith Hughey


Volume XXI, Number 21 (Issue 1025) May 22, 2023

Eight Questions Chapter Six – Part 4 | Change Management – What’s Your History?

Having addressed keys to a successful outcome (Part 3), prioritizing the work and allocating scarce resources (Part 2), and the significance of one’s place in the change cycle (Part 1), we will now turn our attention to our experiences with change. After all, our past experiences, be they unique to us or the shared memories of our organization, not only set the tone, they also serve as a good predictor of how future change efforts will fare.

Think about it. When an organization’s history reflects a string of successful outcomes, the specter of change is not particularly intimidating. Conversely, if your organization’s record is littered with the carnage of one failed initiative after another, the mere mention of change can produce heart palpitations. Moreover, it does not seem to matter if those bad experiences are the result of poorly conceived and executed plans, inadequate communication, or a general lack of commitment and follow-through. Success feeds on success.

At times, a string of projects gone awry is rooted in shiny-object syndrome (a.k.a. priority du jouritis). For the unfamiliar, that is an environment where projects struggle to cross the finish line or reach maturity because they get shelved prematurely in favor of the newest silver bullet. Then there is the collection of organizations where the leadership – for reasons that are difficult to comprehend today – still elect to keep their people in the dark, disregard other points of view, or act as if they alone have the answers. For such organizations, communication gaps become minefields. Finally, there are the change initiatives that go off the rails due to inadequate planning, insufficient resources, or poor execution. Such projects are easy to spot, even when they are deemed to be successful because they take longer than planned and run over budget.

Perhaps we would be better served if we evaluated change initiative outcomes on a relative scale rather than as pass-fail. Next, we must be objective. That requires us to set aside our numerous psychological biases. Finally, we must make better use of after-action assessments (i.e., post-mission debriefs focused on lessons learned) provided those discussions:

1. Are timely.

2. Include key participants from each functional area and each phase of the project.

3. Are memorialized, studied, and shared with others so they can be used to improve future initiatives and future outcomes.

In summary, for those who have been burned by a change effort gone awry, the very mention of change can trigger images of wasted energy, the search for someone to blame, stomach knots a plenty, and a general bad taste in one’s mouth. Small wonder then that a common refrain whispered within some organizations is the George Santayana quote: Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

Yet it need not be that way going forward. Irony aside – if you want/need to change the outcome of your change initiatives, you must change your thinking and change your ways.

Soli Deo Gloria
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning.”
Ecclesiastes 7:8

J. Keith Hughey

Mobile: (210)260-0955
E-mail: keith@jkeithhughey.com
Web site: www.jkeithhughey.com

Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2023 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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