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Why things don’t change – or the tyranny of ‘THEM’

Over the years I worked as a senior manager in large organisations and, more recently, as an educator and business coach for senior managers across private and government organisations. A fascinating phenomenon that comes up in all of those places is, what I’ve come to call, “the tyranny of them”.

A recurring theme while talking with senior people about how we can enact change within their organisation is a mysterious barrier to change called “them”. Often it is said that “they” would not like the change that is proposed. Or that “they” don’t like that kind of thing.

It is always fascinating to deconstruct who “they” are – these disapproving and negative people. It is especially fascinating because the people who are speaking of “them” are often reporting directly to C-level or Executive Management team.

Why is it that even at very senior levels within an organisation there is a paralysis in the face of change? And why does that paralysis take the form of a fear of “them”?

Think about how many times you’ve used the amorphous “them” as a reason not to do something at work.

It’s time to deconstruct “them” whenever they are called upon to reject action on change. Ask instead:

  • Who in particular will object to this change?
  • Why will they object?
  • Are their objections or concerns valid?
  • What can we do to address them?

Thus to be a successful changemaker one needs to understand the various objections to change, and more often than not realise that “we” are the barrier to change, not “them”.

3 thoughts on “Why things don’t change – or the tyranny of ‘THEM’”

  1. Oh yes. From the service delivery point of view ‘the business would like this’ or we can’t ‘get this from the business’.

    I have always found this business persona obstructionist but whenever you go see marketing or finance or whoever that wants to get things done it is great.

    It’s a power/political thing again.

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