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Stephen Billing

Hi Chris,
I want to comment on your statement that the only meaningful choice for managers is whether or not to engage with the informal sense-making of the troops in a deliberate and informed way.

I have found that most often they do not choose to engage in this way, nor do project team people nor consultants who consider themselves "change agents."

A huge opportunity goes begging while the change team, managers and consultants congratulate themselves on a job well done. Even though it unravels after they leave - whether in the implementation or after the implementation is supposedly complete.

Chris Rodgers

Hi Stephen,

I agree fully with your comments about the failure of managers to engage with this ongoing sense-making process and about the danger of 'declaring victory too soon'!

I was amused, though, by your reference to the "troops". In an earlier life, when I designed and orchestrated a major organizational change, we 'banned' the use of this term, which we saw as a symbol of the 'us and them' culture that we were seeking to shift. Troops have officers; so from our perspective, retaining this and similar language would help to preserve the status differentials that we were trying to eliminate/reduce.

At the time (early 1990s) we put great store in the need to get the language 'right'. Language tends to channel thinking down particular pathways (which, after all, is what it's meant to do); so trying to eliminate avoidable incongruities between stated intent and everyday language was a key theme.

As another example, that's also why we referred to "empowerment" as "passing responsibility THROUGHOUT the organization" rather than, as is usual, "passing responsibility to the lowest possible level." Imagine how empowered (or not!) you would feel to be told that you were at the lowest possible level in the organization!

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