The Fetish of Change – chewing it over

My post responding to Christopher Grey’s polemic The Fetish of Change has provoked some great reflections by other bloggers. I really appreciate the way blogging allows us to chew over essays this way.

Mike Dewitt really enjoys Grey’s thinking though he questions Grey’s conclusion that, “the implication of the issues I have outlined, ultimately, is that the whole business of change management should be given up on”. Well, maybe we shouldn’t give up completely, but I’d say we might want to notice the mechanistic assumptions that seem to pervade the way change is talked about.

Annette Clancy also resonates with Grey. I’m going to quote a great chunk of Annette’s thoughts because I couldn’t be more articulate if I tried.

I’d offer an additional perspective which is that (a) we are always resistant to change and (b) we are always changing. So many managers and leaders I work with are grappling with having to implement or deal with the fallout from change. They enter into the relationship feeling scared, utterly inadequate and hiding in their academic understanding of the “value” of change. I have moments when I genuinely think they’ve been brainwashed into believing that it should be simple and straightforward. Which of course it’s not. How could it be when we are grappling with that paradox?

Ask anyone about the value of an academic approach to fitness, weight loss, saving for a rainy day and see how effective it is to talk at people about something they are willingly losing or giving up by not doing things the “new” way. It simply doesn’t work. Most of the time people are scared about what they are losing – sense of self, dignity, finance, position etc…our identity is completely challenged by change processes and yet…

We all change

– We recover from relationships that don’t work

– We learn to move on from the death of significant others

– We adapt to being in relationships with others where our sense of self has to evolve and accommodate difference

– We deal with our children leaving home

And somehow, at the end of it all we survive. Change processes that tap into what we already know about change, our capacity for both hating and managing together with our ability to survive and move on are the most meaningful change interventions I have seen work. I’m privileged to have been part of designing some of those processes also and like Johnnie I believe in the power of open spaces (using that technology and others) for genuine and meaningful connections between people. Safe places that address and manage power relationships are they only ways to effective real change in my humble opinion.

So let’s question the assumptions of “change management” – and let’s also keep challenging the assumptions of its separated-at-birth twin, branding. Because the language of brands often carries with it these dubious command-and-control notions that branding is somehow directed with authority by a few smart people at the top. (See my previous thoughts here and here.)

1 thought on “The Fetish of Change – chewing it over

  1. annette

    Johnnie – thanks for picking up on my response to yours! I’m in total agreement about the power of blogging to continue these kinds of conversations..This whole change business has got me thinking about needing to talk more about change processes that do work and are lasting..

    Reply

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