What’s in a name?

By Bill Wilder, Director of the Life Cycle Institute

We have named what we do change management. But what’s in a name? A lot.

We form many of our beliefs about people and organizations, based on the name. A name means different things to different people based on their personal experiences. While we may have a positive reaction to the name “change management”, others do not. For many, change management is either meaningless, or worse, perceived as “psychobabble.” It is often confused with management of change. There is skepticism about producing documented results.

Karen Strong of Gimmal came to our semiannual change management Community of Practice (CoP) meeting last week. She facilitated “Change: The Game,” a change management role-playing game she created and introduced at ACMP earlier this year.

Played in two rounds, the game takes a team of sponsor, managers, project manager and employees through a change. In the first round there is no change management facilitator. In the second there is. The game played well and vividly illustrated the roles and the value of change management activities.

During our discussions about how we could integrate the game into our work with our clients the image of change management came up. We discussed the negative perception some stakeholders, from sponsors down to employees, have of the term “change management.”

We need an alternative phrase that describes the results we produce, not just what we do. In many organizations the term change management is not used. One large organization I am familiar with refers to the discipline as “transition management.” A well-respected change management consulting firm uses “accelerated implementation.”

Karen suggested describing the work of change management as adoption assurance. This term resonated with our CoP. A couple of other ways of describing our results that we discussed were adoption insurance and risk mitigation.

How you describe the results you produce should be in your elevator speech on the case for change management. Consider changing the name to something relevant, meaningful, and positive for those who fund the effort.

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, scene 2) Juliet proclaims, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet." Perhaps, like Juliet, our sponsors will decide they love what we do in spite of their preconceived notions of the change management name.

Bill Wilder, M.Ed is the founder and director of the Life Cycle Institute, the learning, leadership and change management practice at Life Cycle Engineering. The Institute integrates the science of learning and the science of change management to help organizations produce results through behavior change. You can reach Bill at [email protected].

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