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  • Gilbert Kruidenier

Fake Change

Banana in a peel that looks like a cucumber signifying fakeness

I used to get all wild-eyed and red in the face at just the mention of Change Resistance and Change Fatigue. After many deep breaths, patient guidance from people like Joanne Rinaldi, Heather Stagl and Daryl Conner and a few years of bashing into brick walls head-first, I am better now. I understand it’s just words and while words are important, my shouting “Blasphemy!” and “Burn the Witch! (m/f)” were not exactly inviting smart and enlightening conversation. I can now agree to disagree and still respect the efforts of a fellow changie doing good in the world, they’re just using different words than I would. See?! Better.

Or so I thought.

At first, I put my agitated state of mind down to me turning into a grumpy person, but my partner tells me I am no grumpier than I was before (take that however you want..), so I checked in with my network and they too seemed to be suffering from what I’ve self-diagnosed as Fake Change Revulsion Syndrome (FCRS), caused by change initiatives that pretend to be genuine in their attempt to improve the current state, but turn out to be mostly window dressing and completely fake when you look closer.

Most common FCRS symptoms: Gradual loss of patience with clueless wafflers, leading to very terse conversations. Inability to take most change job ads seriously as they seem to just copy/paste from the same uninspired template that only seeks to perpetuate a broken system. Profound sense of worry at the state of organisational change and what’s next. Continuously thinking about a new career path, coupled with feelings of defeat. Avoiding managers because you can’t take any more clichés/myths from the 80’s.

In case you feel you might be suffering from FCRS too, here’s some ways to diagnose if you’re dealing with a live Fake Change situation. There are likely as yet undocumented varieties out there, feel free to share your observations in the comments.

10 easy ways to spot Fake Change

  1. Talk but no action while the change framework gets postered on all available surface.

  2. Failure is to be avoided at all cost. This includes trying new things, especially new things.

  3. The change plan is strictly ‘need to know’ and very, very few need to know.

  4. Change is done by managers and done to staff, but only if it’s not too much trouble.

  5. Your PD gives you a perfect score on the bullsh*t bingo scorecard.

  6. No one knows what to do, but it will take a 12-month fixed term contract at $800/day to do it.

  7. The change does not get scoped ever and all your attempts to do so get subtly blocked.

  8. Extreme focus on resistance and how to counter it.

  9. The way change is talked about sounds like either a military operation or a convention of quantum physicist discussing the EPR paradox.

  10. Declaring that change leadership is the way to go but showing none at any time.

The cure to Fake Change Revulsion Syndrome

Very simple, but not easy: Call it. Every time. Because every time we let it slide we allow the virus to spread. And all joking aside, it’s our profession at risk here, because Fake Change does a great job at presenting itself as Real Change, until you dig a little deeper and are left empty-handed. Our clients and colleagues can often not tell the difference and rely on us for good guidance and Real Change.

Yes, that takes courage, tact and a viable alternative solution, but I believe that those are three things that every good change manager can deliver at any time. Please prove me right. every good change manager can deliver at any time. Please prove me right.

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