Tips for Lean Managers

The View from the Other Side: Stop the Kaizen!

By Jon Miller Updated on May 15th, 2017

The Job Schmob blogger gives us (kaizen people) a view from the other side in his (her?) October 2, 2006 post The Business of Change Management and Corporate Propaganda: Part 1. The Job Schmob blog person takes issue with a quote by marketing guru Seth Godin in a December 1999 issue of Fast Company where Seth said:
Competent people resist change. Why? Because change threatens to make them less competent. And competent people like being competent. That’s who they are, and sometimes that’s all they’ve got. No wonder they’re not in a hurry to rock the boat.
In the face of change, the competent are helpless. Change means a temporary or permanent threat to their competence.

Later in the Fast Company article Seth Godin goes on to equate “incompetent” with a condition in which people are willing to change. Nice and provocative, but we need to be more respectful when approaching people with our change agendas.
The Job Schmob blogger has a rejoinder for Seth Godin: Competent people do not resist competent change.
I’ve got news for them both: all people resist change. It’s just a matter of degree. As we learned in a previous post, resistance to change is a built-in neurological condition of humans, if you believe the researcher results in the Strategy + Business article and the anecdotal evidence of just about anyone who has tried to change anyone.
Based on resistance to change being part of the human condition, let’s reposition the conversation from “competent” which implies learned ability, to one that implies an innate condition as suggested in the article mentioned above. Let’s replace “competent” with the term “complacent”. Competent or incompetent, if you are dissatisfied, you are willing to change (for the better). If you are complacent, you are not likely to change whether you are brilliantly competent or hopelessly incompetent at what you do. It’s not your current ability that matters, it’s how fast you are improving. It’s the vector and velocity of change that matter more than your current position.
The Job Schmobber equates the sort of motivational management guru-spin Seth Godin provides for change management with propaganda. Since propaganda is any media that openly seek to persuade an audience toward the acceptance of a particular belief, this is an accurate description. This blog too is propaganda promoting kaizen.
It’s okay to hate change. This is a normal biological reaction for humans. But not changing is not okay. In fact it is impossible. Change happens. If you don’t take control of it and direct in the direction of good (kaizen) you will lose. As change agent and propagandist extraordinaire Dr. Edwards Deming said: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
Part 2 of the “Business of Change Management” blog entry is actually fairly entertaining, though the Job Schmob blogger’s outrage appears genuine. How this person would be horrified to learn of our change management propaganda blog and the legions of eager change agents with their $1,000 videos and cheese-moving tricks and tools…

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