Breaking the Illusion of Change

We know this isn’t working.

The signals are clear.


We talk about change.

Worry about change.

Argue about change.

Learn about change.

Plan to change.


Yet, months, even years pass with no real change. We beat our chests and pound on conference room tables. So much activity and so little progress.

…full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing”

Trapped in the illusion of change.

  • The illusion of planning
     We need more data. More research. More analysis.
     An endless quest for certainty. Just one more data point. Each new input creates more options. Each new meeting results in new opinions. Talking but never moving. Break the illusion by establishing the decision-making process up front and setting a deadline for action.
  • The illusion of productivity
     We need to focus. Set bigger goals. Crack the whip.
    Let’s maximize our energy on an ineffective strategy. It will work this time if we just try harder and move faster. Give the merry-go-round a good hard spin and hope no one falls off. Break the illusion with a review process that clarifies what must stop to allow new things to start.
  • The illusion of packaging
    We need to say it differently. Put a bow on it. Get some buzzwords.
    Wrap the old problems in a new package. Maybe no one will notice. Using new words to create imaginary progress. Break the illusion with an accurate description of the situation and an emphasis on candid communication.
“You can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into!” — Stephen R. Covey
  • The illusion of perspective
    We need a new point of view. Bring in the experts. Set up a task force.
     Management can’t figure this out. Time to find someone who will tell us what we already know but with better charts and graphs. Ignore the gold in our own back yard. Break the illusion by first consulting with the people who are closest to the process and the customers.
  • The illusion of punishment
    We need a responsible party. A name to blame. Someone must pay.
     In the name of accountability, we seek out a target for our frustrations. A sacrifice to the altar of status quo. Fix the person; forget the problem. Break the illusion by asking questions designed to reveal the underlying issues before discussing personal responsibility.
  • The illusion of presentation
    We need to turn up the volume. Make a speech. Fire up the troops.
    If people aren’t listening we must not be saying it loud enough or often enough. We need more excitement! More PowerPoints! More posters! Or maybe more threats. Break the illusion with more listening and less talking to reveal the source of the disconnect.

Change is hard.

The illusion of change only buys you more work and less time.

Originally published at on February 15, 2017.