No Surprises?

Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s recent post Ten Reasons People Resist Change prompted me to reflect on how our desire to get it right before we share it can get in the way of successful change. She reminds us that “Leaders should avoid the temptation to craft changes in secret and then announce them all at once. It’s better to plant seeds”.


Perhaps we could learn something about successful change by looking at how products are launched? Successful product launches involve the consumer right at the start via market research and focus groups, typically this results in one or more prototypes that are tested against consumer preferences and reactions, a marketing campaign will then provide some teasers and stimulate demand, and then finally the product is launched. Even Apple use some of these tactics to ensure that the product launch is not a total surprise.


Yet I regularly work with clients who want to hold off revealing anything about planned changes until everything is finalised. In some cases, this may be the right approach because of commercial sensitivity but often it’s based on the fear that if we announce something and it changes then that is a failure.


However, the cost of not planting those seeds about what the change will or won’t be is the resistance generated by our dislike of surprises. We all need time to get used to the idea of change and we naturally resist change that we have not had the opportunity to shape or influence.


Next time you introduce a change in your organisation, ask yourself at what point is your view of the change good enough to share and to get some input that will make it even better?



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