Change is not the goal

In the 2008 US Presidential campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain, Obama claimed to be "the change we need" while McCain claimed to be a "maverick reformer". The fact that both candidates on the world's largest stage ran on a 'change platform' is symbolic of how much the concept of 'change' is a part of our contemporary lexicon. More recently, the claiming of a change platform by political leaders has spread across the Middle East, North and East Africa; as a desperate attempt to hang on to the last threads of power, or in attempt to replace incumbent regimes. But is change what the people of these nations really want?

Semantically, the definition of 'change' rests on the underlying concept of 'different'; the implication being that we want something different to what we have currently. But different is a weak and unstable word, it lacks strength, a sense of destination, and personal accountability; it is too easy for people to say "something needs to change!" It also lacks any sense of continuity; people will rightfully want to know "what happens after we change?"

It is our contention that Americans do not want change as much as they want to realise the American dream and live their unalienable rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as espoused in the Declaration of Independence. Similarly, we contend that the stakeholders of our organisations do not want change either, but rather the realisation of the statements of mission, vision and values that appear prominently in corporate boardrooms and on company websites right around the globe.

To achieve our aspirations in the modern organisational context, we must move on from the concepts of 'change management' and 'change programs' which carry the emotional baggage of a 70% failure rate. In fact, the terms 'change' and 'failure' have become almost synonymous in many organisations. When a leader talks about 'change', or even worse a 'change program', what people typically hear is pain, loss, extra effort, increased risk and greater uncertainty. Change is not the goal. The goal is the goal.

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