Terminological inexactitude No.1 – Change Management

An occasional series on phrases we use that imply the opposite of what we intend

Change is disruptive, unruly, unpredictable, uncomfortable, uncontrollable. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, that’s just the way it is. It’s part of life. The idea of managing it is ridiculous, but it gives us a sense of control and deceive ourselves that we have mastery over events. However, by focusing on control it is emphasising the negative side of change. Change is not just necessary, it is inevitable and it is how we develop as people, as businesses and as society. So why do we imply it is negative every time we refer to it in business?

I remember doing geography at school, which I loved (I still bore my family by pointing out geographical features and getting all emotional over truncated spurs), and we spent some time studying rivers. When there is a change in the angle of fall in a river due, for example, to local ground movement or a fall in sea level, it is called a ‘rejuvenation’. The river increases in rate of flow, becomes much more dynamic and powerful, and begins to affect the geography around it rather than the other way around.

I wonder how more successful ‘change management programmes’ would be if we called them ‘rejuvenation programmes’.

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